Monthly Archives: September 2008

Copyright and Chickpeas

Mediterranean Chickpea Salad

The other day I posted a roasted ratatouille recipe I adapted from Chocolate & Zucchini. This prompted Tim to ask: “isn’t that copyright infringement”?

Huh. Call me a crap creative, but that thought had not occurred to me. “Naaaah,” I said. I altered the ingredients and directions slightly, plus I gave credit to C&Z. So what’s the problem?

I brushed it off until today when I wanted to post the Mediterranean Chickpea Salad recipe from the New York Times but couldn’t help but feel haunted by the question…

“Am I stealing this recipe?”

The short answer is “no”. Here’s what U.S. copyright law says about recipes:

Mere listings of ingredients as in recipes, formulas, compounds, or prescriptions are not subject to copyright protection. However, when a recipe or formula is accompanied by substantial literary expression in the form of an explanation or directions, or when there is a combination of recipes, as in a cookbook, there may be a basis for copyright protection.

So a recipe is not an invention unless it accompanies a fair amount of “literary” prose around it. While that may be true, there’s still the matter of etiquette. The International Association of Culinary Professionals focusses on giving credit where credit is due.

The association advises using the words “adapted from,” “based on” or “inspired by,” depending on how much a recipe has been revised. (“Adapted from” is the phrasing favored by The Washington Post and many other newspaper food sections, which, along with culinary instructors, enjoy “fair use” of someone’s creation for the purpose of teaching, news reporting, scholarship or research.) The only time a recipe should be printed without attribution, the association contends, is when it has been changed so substantially that it no longer resembles its source. [Can a Recipe be Stolen?, The Washington Post]

Before I knew any of this, I was already giving credit to my recipe sources. It just feels like the right thing to do. Blogging is sharing, isn’t it? Were someone to post a recipe that I published, I don’t think I’d mind (though I might be a bit cheesed off if they didn’t credit me!). How do you feel about sharing recipes?

Yeah but what about those chickpeas?

Right. So I made the Mediterranean Chickpea Salad recently posted on the New York Times. It’s good. Real good. From the cumin-spiced dressing to the sweet tomatoes to the crunchy red pepper and savory olives. I like to add cucumber because I simply love the combination of chickpeas, cucumber and tomato. I skipped the yogurt from the original recipe which didn’t take away from its goodness. The feta is essential, however. When the salad is tossed, most of the feta dissolves into the dressing, making it super creamy and delicious.

The salad gets better after a day or two of marinating. And for you working-world folks, this salad is great for packed lunches!

Mediterranean Chickpea Salad


Mediterranean Chickpea Salad

Adapted from The New York Times.

Serves 4

– 2 (15-ounce) cans chick peas, drained and rinsed
– 1/4 cucumber, cubed
– 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
– 1 small red bell pepper, chopped
– 2 medium tomatoes, diced
– 4 green onions, sliced
– 6 kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
– 1 ounce feta cheese, crumbled

To make the dressing:
– 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
– 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
– 1 small garlic clove, minced
– 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds, lightly toasted and crushed or coarsely ground
– Salt and freshly ground pepper
– 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Toss together the salad ingredients. Whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, cumin seeds, salt, pepper, olive oil. Toss with the chickpeas.

Per serving: 344 Calories; 13g Protein; 16g fat; 41g Carbohydrate

Life Experiment: First Coffee after Four Weeks Caffeine-Free

Birthday Coffee

Way too much coffee.

But if it weren’t for the coffee,

I’d have no identifiable personality whatsoever.
– David Letterman

I never intended for my caffeine-free stint to last forever. I like coffee. I like tea. I especially like chocolate! I simply don’t like being dependent on caffeine.

Yesterday, just one-day shy of my four-week caffeine-free anniversary, Tim and I found ourselves at Rory’s for brunch. Rory makes exceptional coffee. He’s got a super-badass espresso machine but that isn’t what makes the coffee so special. Rory pays loving attention to every cup of coffee he makes, from the roast to the grind (which he does himself) to the tamp to the steamed milk. If I was going to break my caffeine fast, there is no place I’d rather do it that at Rory’s over one of his superb coffees.

Rory’s signature coffee is a “flat white”, a popular beverage in his and Tim’s homeland of New Zealand. A flat white is generally made with 1/3 espresso and 2/3 steamed milk, where “the volumised milk is prepared by folding the top layer into the lower layers”, or so Wikipedia tells me. Rory might have his own method, or he may have written that Wikipedia entry himself. I wouldn’t be surprised!

As the resident American in the room, I opted for an Americano with a splash of milk.

Yes but how did it feel?? At first it felt, well, tasty. Nothing special. Ain’t no thang. But after cycling home I found myself intensely WIRED. I forgot what it feels like to have a caffeine high. I can’t say it felt terrible, but it also didn’t feel great. I found it impossible to concentrate or sit still. I couldn’t get any work done so I went for a walk, then cooked, and finally had a beer and a glass of wine, which seemed to take the edge off.

I could see the odd coffee being a good thing if I were, say, on holiday and were about to spend the day galavanting around town, where concentration wasn’t such an issue. Of course, if I went back on caffeine regularly, the buzz wouldn’t happen because I’d be immune again. But that’s not something I plan to do. Yesterday’s coffee doesn’t have me jonesing for another cup. But it does remind me that it’s okay to enjoy caffeine once in a while. It’s a quality of life thing, and once in a while, especially on a sunny Saturday and with good friends and tasty food, it’s important to enjoy the moment and just be.

Seasonal Recipes: Roasted Ratatouille

Lightroom Catalog.lrcat - Adobe Photoshop Lightroom - Library.png

Tis the season of eggplant, zucchini, peppers and tomato. What better way to enjoy them all at once than in a delicious ratatouille!

Ratatouille is traditionally made by cooking all of the vegetables separately. I’m sure the results are fantastic, but who has that many pots? Never mind the time! Screw it – why not chuck all the veggies in the oven with some herbs and olive oil and PRESTO! Easy ratatouille with a blackened bonus. This stuff is good hot or cold and it only gets better with time. You can use leftover ratatouille in sandwiches, as pizza topping, in a salad, with pasta, or on its own. I love it with polenta and a simple green salad. Add a few chickpeas and you’ve got a well-rounded meal on your hands (or in your tummy). Good stuff.

I borrow my technique from the ever-talented Clotilde at Chocolate & Zucchini.


Roasted Ratatouille

This is even better with fresh rosemary and thyme – use 2 sprigs rosemary and 3 sprigs thyme.

– 2 onions, sliced
– 2 cloves garlic, sliced
– 1 eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
– 1 zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
– 2 green peppers, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
– 16 cherry tomatoes
– 1 tsp dried rosemary
– 2 tsp dried thyme
– salt, pepper
– olive oil

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).

Combine the vegetables, herbs and a liberal dose of salt and pepper in an oven-proof dish. Drizzle with olive oil (about 2 Tbsp) and toss to ensure an even coating.

Cover the dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes. At this point the vegetables should be cooked but not colored, and there should be cooking juices at the bottom of the pan.

Remove the foil and bake for another 30 to 45 minutes, until the cooking juices have evaporated and the vegetables start to blacken.

Serve hot or cold.

Weak Bladder = Major Bummer for Sporty Spices

skitched-20080927-153132.pngWeak bladder. Incontinence. Urinary stress. Leakage.

Could there be a more awkward topic? No wonder so few people talk about it. But despite this silence, some research suggests that as many as 46% of women suffer from a weak bladder. And new research shows that this condition is discouraging many women from participating in sports.

A study recently published in the British Medical Journal asked 679 Italian women whether they had ever had urinary stress incontinence. The anomymous responses showed that around 1 in 7 (15%) said they suffered from the condition. On average, the women had been putting up with the symptoms for six years.

Of those affected, almost half said the condition occurred during routine activities, while one in three said it occurred solely during sporting activities. One in five said it occurred in both circumstances.

One in 10 women said that stress incontinence had prompted them to give up their favourite sport. A further one in five said that the condition had restricted or forced them to change their activities, in a bid to avoid the risk of leakage.

I’ll be honest with you: I’m a frequent pee-er. And I admit, I get a little nervous if I know I’m going to be without a bathroom for a significant length of time. When I’m at the movies, I always pee right when the previews start. When I’m out on the town and happen to find myself in a place where I know there’s a bathroom, I always use it – just in case I won’t find one later. As for the great outdoors, I’ve learned to squat.



Try adding Kegels to your gym routine!

The good news is that most bladder control problems are due to weak pelvic muscles. Like all muscles, these can be strengthened by repeatedly flexing them, a technique many of us know as Kegel exercises.

How do you know you’re squeezing the right muscles? I like the suggestions found on the NIH’s National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearing House (NKUDIC – how’s that for an acronym?):

Imagine that you are trying to stop passing gas. Squeeze the muscles you would use. If you sense a “pulling” feeling, you are squeezing the right muscles for pelvic exercises.

Imagine that you are sitting on a marble and want to pick up the marble with your vagina. Imagine “sucking” the marble into your vagina.

Lie down and put your finger inside your vagina. Squeeze as if you were trying to stop urine from coming out. If you feel tightness on your finger, you are squeezing the right pelvic muscles.

You can also identify your pelvic muscles by stopping the flow of urine midstream. Once you’ve practiced a few times this way, you should be able to flex your pelvic floor independently of urination.

“Kegel exercises” are typically performed in sets. Here are a few techniques:


    • Quick pumps: do 15 reps of quick pumps, pause for 30 seconds and repeat. Start at 15 and work your way up to 100 reps two times a day.


  • Hold and release: contract the muscle slowly and hold for 5 seconds, release slowly. Work your way to at least 25 reps two times a day.



  • Elevator: slowly contract 1/3 of the way, pause, then 2/3 of the way, pause, then all the way. Do 10 reps two times a day.



Weak Bladders Deter Many Young Women From Sports Participation [Science Daily]
Kegel exercises [Wikipedia]
What I need to know about Bladder Control for Women [NKUDIC]

Caffeine-Free Alternatives to Tea and Coffee

One of the things I miss most about coffee and tea is the simple, delightful ritual of having a hot beverage that goes well with milk (and cake!). To fill this void, I’ve been seeking out non-caffeinated teas that also do nicely with milk. Here’s what I’ve found so far. Can you add to the list?


skitched-20080901-214120.jpgAfrikaans for “red bush”, rooibos (pronounced “roy-boss”) is popular in South Africa where it is commonly sipped with milk and sugar. I skip the sugar because I’m just not that kind of girl, and rooibos already has a sweetish taste as-is. I like that it’s low in tannins, saving me from that funny dry-toungue feeling that results from too much black tea (or wine for that matter). Several tea companies sell rooibos, including Tick Tock and Dragonfly. Some even do funky things like combine the rooibos with dried fruit, vanilla, almonds, and all kinds of flavor variations. But nothing beats a cup of pure 100% rooibos.

Ingredients of rooibos tea: 100% rooibos (aspalathus linearis)

Yogi Tea


I have recently discovered Yogi Tea‘s “Spirit” line of teas, which include Mexican Sweet Chili, Egyptian Licorice, and Moroccan Orange Spice. Do you get the impression that they spun the globe around and picked a location at random to brand these ridiculously named teas? Even so, I’m a fan. The Mexican Sweet Chili is my favorite so far. You can get a free sample on their website.

Ingredients of Mexican Sweet Chili tea: Organic Licorice Root, Organic Cocoa Shells, Orange Peel, Organic Ginger Root,Organic Fennel Seed, Organic Anise Seed, Organic Cinnamon Bark, Natural Tangerine Flavor, Natural Orange Flavor, Organic Cardamom Seed, Organic Clove Bud, Organic Cayenne, Organic Black Pepper

Dandy Blend Faux Coffee

skitched-20080901-213849.jpgIt’s been a few years since I tried Dandy Blend but it certainly left an impression. This is what I wrote about it in August, 2005: The Herb Bar, true to its name, also has an entire room of herbs and teas. I was blown away. I sampled an amazing coffee substitute called Dandy Blend, made with roasted roots of chicory, dandylion and beets and roasted grains of barley and rye. An impressive beverage, though I think I’d rather miss the caffeine kick (a kick in the head is more like it, but how else could i possibly manage my current stint as a morning person?). It’s funny reading old stuff like that. Particularly the bit about my “stint” as a morning person. Here I am, three-and-a-bit years later, writing blog posts at 6a.m. on a Saturday, and without the aid of coffee OR Dandy Blend (but I do have a pot of rooibos by my side).

Ingredients of Dandy Blend: soluble extracts of roasted barley, rye, chicory root, dandelion root and beet root.

Fast Food Hits Mediterranean; a Diet Succumbs

In case you haven’t seen this already, the New York Times discloses the modern paradox of the wondrous Mediterranean Diet – wondrous for anyone not living in the Mediterranean, that is:

The fact is that the Mediterranean diet, which has been associated with longer life spans and lower rates of heart disease and cancer, is in retreat in its home region. Today it is more likely to be found in the upscale restaurants of London and New York than among the young generation in places like Greece, where two-thirds of children are now overweight and the health effects are mounting, health officials say.

“This is a place where you’d see people who lived to 100, where people were all fit and trim,” says [Dr. Michalis Stagourakis]. “Now you see kids whose longevity is less than their parents’. That’s really scaring people.”

Fast Food Hits Mediterranean; a Diet Succumbs

What Does 200 Calories Look Like?


Struggling with portion control but can’t be bothered with counting calories? How about looking at your calories instead? Wise Geek has posted photos of 200-Calorie portions of various foods. The gallery is arranged in order of mass, with celery and mini peppers giving the most mass per calorie, while nuts, butter and canola oil pack the most calories into a puny amount of mass.

The lesson – if you want to keep eating big American-sized portions of food but still want to lose weight, fill your plate with fruit and veg and keep the french fries, lollypops and peanut butter crackers to a minimum.

What does 200 calories look like? [thanks, Xandros!]

My Daily Protein Smoothie

skitched-20080922-170458.pngI’ve been hitting the protein smoothies lately. Why? Because I’ve also been hitting the pushups and pull-ups and I think a little extra protein can only do this vegetarian some good. I used to drink smoothies all the time as a little reward after finishing a long run. Now I find them to be a great mid-morning snack to get me through til lunch.

Today, Crabby posted her Simplest Smoothie Recipe Ever recipe and it inspired me to share my own. She doesn’t use ice in hers but I like to add a good 4-6 cubes per person for a thick frothy milkshake that’s a little slow-going through a straw (this keeps me from downing my smoothie in one gulp). I also like to add a few dried pieces of fruit such as prunes or date… the blender chops them into little bits that are fun to eat, and any large bits that don’t get blended are like a nice fruity surprise at the end.

The protein part usually comes from unsweetened protein powder, either whey or soy (tried pea protein once – yuck). If I’m out of powder, I use tofu or yogurt. My preference is for tofu (shown above) or soy protein powder, both of which seem to result in a creamier smoothie than other options.

I don’t find that this needs any extra sweetener; usually the frozen fruit is sweet enough. But if you like a sweeter smoothie, add some honey or substitute the water for fruit juice.

Easy Protein Smoothie

Serves 2

3 scoops protein powder (or 1 350g block of silken tofu)
1 banana
200g frozen berries
2-4 dates or prunes
4 Tbsp flax meal
8-12 ice cubes
water, enough to cover

Put everything in the blender and WHIZZ, adding more or less water to achieve the desired smoothie smoothness. Enjoy!

Online Gamers: Fitter physically but not mentally?

skitched-20080921-182645.pngWow, the New Scientist has shattered all of my stereotypes about people who play EverQuest. A new study suggests that adult gamers have an average body mass index lower than the overall American average (25.2 versus 28). That’s good news, I guess… 25.2 is still in the “overweight range”. The study also found that gamers report more cases of depression and substance abuse than non-gamers.

“They may be drawn to use the game to help deal with emotional distress,” says team member Scott Caplan of the University of Delaware.

No, really?

The research is based on a survey by 7000 players of EverQuest II about their physical and mental health. I thought it was funny that survey participants were offered a specially created virtual weapon as an incentive – the “Greatstaff of the Sun Serpent”. Never underestimate the power of the serpent. Or weapons. Or clever names for said weapons. If I offered you a “Giant Snake Fang Rapier” or the “Spear of the Dream Lover” in exchange for an hour’s walk a day, would you do it? Sounds like what EverCrack gamers need is the “Mighty Axe of the Prozac”. Or a real one of these:


Online gamers are fit – physically if not mentally

Tempeh Reuben Sandwich

Tempeh Reuben Sandwich

Purists in the audience will think that a Reuben just isn’t a Reuben without pastrami, swiss cheese, or Thousand Island Dressing. Well you can’t get any of those ingredients in London and, chances are, I wouldn’t eat them anyway. In my eyes, the sauerkraut makes the Reuben, and until yesterday I would have said that rye bread does, too. But my latest sandwich creation proved otherwise.

I only had some leftover chive bread to work with, baked using 101 Cookbook’s cornbread recipe (which tasted little like corn but a lot like chive, hence my terminology). The oniony flavor of the bread turned out to be surprisingly good with the smokey tempeh and saurkraut.

In place of Thousand Island Dressing, I use avocado and tomato. In place of pastrami, I use tempeh, cooked according to Your Vegan Mom’s Smokey Tempeh Slices recipe (found thanks to Veggie Meal Plans). Her recipe calls for less tempeh and no marinating. I doubled the tempeh and marinated it over night, which was delicious, but if you don’t have my kind of food-obsessed foresight, marinating is not necessary according to her original recipe.

You’ll notice from the picture that I also use lettuce leaves for the top slice of bread. This is optional, and not really encouraged. I do it because I’m small and really don’t need two hearty slices of bread (especially when having soup with the meal!). But you normal-sized people should add a second slice to the deck and eat the sandwich like it was intended.

The recipe makes enough tempeh for a few sandwiches and the leftovers are great for quick sandwiches – perfect for packed lunches!

Tempeh Reuben Sandwich

You don’t need to marinate the tempeh over night but it does add to the flavor. Mayo is also quite good in place of the avocado.


  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp liquid smoke
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 8 oz. package tempeh, sliced thinly
  • olive oil
  • sauerkraut (make your own!)
  • avocado, sliced
  • tomato, sliced
  • salt and pepper
  • lettuce
  • nice bread


    1. Combine the soy sauce, balsamic, maple syrup, liquid smoke and water in a shallow dish. Add the tempeh slices and marinate for as long as you can be bothered.
    2. Heat a little olive oil in a nonstick pan.
    3. Add the tempeh slices and pour the marinate on top. Simmer until the liquid has reduced. Brown the tempeh on both sides.
    4. While the tempeh is cooking, heat up the saurkraut and toast some bread.
    5. Top the bread with avocado, tomato, salt and pepper, saurkraut, as much tempeh as you can handle, and a little lettuce.
    6. Eat and enjoy!