Saturday, April 04, 2015

My History with Hair Loss.

Oh, hair. We complain about it, fuss over it, spend a shit ton of money on it, flaunt it, abuse it, and pretty much take it for granted. I used to, anyway. Back when I had plenty of hair to spare.

                          When I was 18, I had So. Much. Hair.

Around the age of 23, I started to notice a lot of fall out with my hair. My shower would clog with it, and I could run my fingers though and come back with a handful. I was vegetarian at the time, and following a fairly healthy diet. I had recently gone though a traumatic domestic abuse situation that lasted just over three years, and I was in treatment for the related PTSD, depression and anxiety, so I assumed my hair loss was a part of that. So I let it go for a few more years. By age 25, the hair loss became more noticeable in a strange place on my head, just over my right ear. I decided to get it checked out with a dermatologist with full lab work and a scalp biopsy. The results on the blood work were totally clean. No nutritional decencies, no hormone imbalances, etc. Based on my biopsy, the Dr. decided that I had a diffuse form of Alopecia Areata. I tried the topical steroid, declined the internal steroid, and had no noticeable results. I was told that I could have this condition forever, or it could go into remission. I could go totally bald, or it could stay the way it was. Basically, I had no solid information other than, "there's nothing you can do about this". But I got over it. Besides, I was young, otherwise healthy, and it still wasn't very noticable.

By age 30, the diffuse hair loss started creeping up to my crown. As long as I kept my natural curl in place and kept the length on the shorter side, it still wasn't very obvious.






I also felt so guilty for giving a shit about what my hair looked like. Weren't there more pressing problems in the world? The whole situation has always felt too vain. But in reality, it did begin to negatively effect my self-esteem. I told myself, hey, if it ever gets really noticeable, I will just wear awesome wigs.

When I was pregnant at age 35, the alopecia went into total remission. I even had some new growth. My hair was the fullest it had looked since high school. So great! People warned me about the fall out period that happens after giving birth, but I didn't worry too much. But, man, did my hair fall out after having my son. Chunks of hair. Wads. Bird nests of hair. It sucked. But I was extremely busy with our newborn, I barely had time to shower, much less worry about my vanity.

And it never grew back. So I recently had another battery of tests run. I was sure I had hormone problems, PCOS, or some autoimmune disease. But I didn't. In fact, the Dr. downgraded me to a diagnosis of your run-of-the-mill Androgenic Alopecia, which is, basically, male pattern baldness. I was told it was genetic. My mom has a full head of hair and so do her sisters, so I chalked it up to the possibility of my paternal grandmother, who died at the age of 40. Maybe she had hair loss too?

I tried Rogaine, but it did not stop the loss. But by then the loss was so great, that it was probably too late for Rogaine anyway. Here is what the top of my head looks like now.






Yeah, it's pretty embarrassing. I'm bald at age 40. I know I shouldn't care about what I look like, but it really does bum me out sometimes. And since I work within the vegan community, I'm embarrassed to have my picture taken or meet people in person because I don't want anyone to think that my baldness is a reflection of my veganism. It's really not. Many tests have proved that. It's just bad hair luck. I want to start wearing wigs more often, but after doing some research on what kinds to try I've realized that acquiring realistic alternative hair can be pretty costly. Human hair wigs are soooo expensive, so synthetic wigs are a good option cost-wise. But synthetics need to be replaced every 3-6 months, and the great quality, realistic ones run $150-$450. I just haven't found a way to make this work within our family budget. Especially not being a "necessity"

I recently took a chance on a short bob style from the Jon Renau line of synthetic wigs, and I am very impressed with how realistic the hair feels and moves. But unfortunately I think the cut is a bit too matronly on me, especially if I'm wearing my dressier work clothes. I wear it occasionally, but it doesn't feel right as an everyday kind of style. I'm trying to feel out what style would be best, but it's hard to gamble with wigs that cost so much.

      This is "Blair" by Jon Renau. I don't like the bangs, but I do like not looking bald!


In my research on wigs, I found an incredibly helpful YouTube channel from Heather of Cysterwigs. I really appreciate Heather's candor and thoroughness with her wig reviews. There are definitely some wigs that she has reviewed that I want to try on myself! Heather is running a contest where she is giving away some hair in exchange for people telling their hair stories. So this is my story. If you see me in person and I'm wearing some new hair, it will likely be from Heather's shop. And if you want or need some fancy new hair, you should check out her shop, too!

Friday, March 01, 2013

Creamy Carrot Cashew Sauce

There's a reason (besides laziness) that I don't post recipes as often as I used to. Because cooking meals for two adults and one toddler can be....boring? Repetitive? Like throwing a bunch of semi-homemade stuff in a microwave and calling it food? Really, I do my best to provide my kid healthy, well rounded meals. And the goal is to have the kid and the adults eating the same meals, for the most part. But there are challenges to everyone eating the same food in this house. For one, the kid is on a higher fat diet than we really need to be. Two, like most toddlers, he doesn't enjoy certain textures and can sometimes be described as "picky". Third, I usually have about twenty minutes of spare time to create meals. Is that how long an episode of Blue's Clues is? However long it takes for him to get bored with that show then come into the kitchen to destroy my baking supplies drawer and insist on being lifted up to see what's going on at the stove. It's all downhill from there, so I gotta act fast.

We eat a ton of pasta in this house. The Italian husband loves it, I love it, and the toddler would eat only pasta every day for the rest of his life if we allowed it. But everyone gets bored of tomato sauces and cheesy sauces. So lately I've been blending any and every vegetable into a creamy sauce. It started with a dairy-free pesto, then kept on going with butternut squash, broccoli, spinach, kale, and now carrots. Just to be clear, I don't hide vegetables from the kid. He eats chunks of vegetables fairly often, too. And I tell him what's in his sauce. His favorite is broccoli sauce. But he doesn't like the texture of broccoli trees, and you already know about his pasta obsession, so a sauce is a good way for him to eat some green stuff.



This carrot cashew sauce is a recent favorite all around. It may look like a cheese sauce, but the flavor is not cheesy at all. It is slightly sweet from the carrots and just basically delicious. I use frozen organic carrots steamed in the microwave because, TIME. But you can use fresh carrots cooked on the stove if you want. Our beloved high power Vitamix blender allows us to blend cashews into a sauce without soaking them first. If you don't have a high powered blender, soak those nuts in water for a few hours before blending.


                                          Creamy Carrot Cashew Sauce

1 cup cooked carrots, diced and cooled
1/2 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp fresh basil
1 tsp salt

Dump all that shit into a blender and blend on the highest speed until smooth, about 3-4 minutes. Once the sauce is very smooth, transfer it to a medium saucepan and heat on the stove on low heat while your pasta cooks. Sauce will cover up to 1 pound of cooked pasta.

The kid liked it a lot. It's a good thing too, because there's a lot of leftovers. I love leftovers.


Thursday, February 07, 2013

Down Yonder #2: The Metal Years

Hey, look who finally finished her second zine!

 
Thank you to superfriend Josh Hooten for illustrating the cover for me.

The Down Yonder series is a way for me to dig into my personal food nostalgia to try and understand where my current eating habits come from. In Volume 1: Marlene, I stumbled down memory lane in honor of my mom, and the food we shared together when I was a kid. While there is no doubt the food I was introduced to as a young kid helped shape my tastes, I think there is also something to be said about my teenage years. I was just starting to really make my own food choices around age 15 or so. With a little bit of money in my pocket from various summer jobs, coupled with having some friends with driving privileges, it was a recipe for junk food and bad food choices. I have fond memories of some pretty crap food from that time. The food you find in DY2 may not all be traditional southern food, but they are certainly based on some regional restaurant favorites. Down Yonder Volume 2: The Metal Years is dedicated to all my Georgia metalhead friends, our late night Waffle House binges and post show Krystal eating competitions.
Horns up. \m/ \m/

The recipes:
Tripp Sunrise Muffins
Savory Grits with Garlic Mushrooms
Chicken Fried Tofu Casserole
Lentil & Kale Enchiladas
Krystal Mini Pizzas
Chocolate Testa-mint Cookies
Don't Be a Dick, Be a Dude Black Forest Pie 
Cocoa Puff Bars with Whiskey Glaze
Purple Fuzzy Fizzy Punch




black forest pie  
Don't Be a Dick, Be a Dude Black Forest Pie

  chicken fried tofu casserole
Chicken Fried Tofu Casserole

  scattered
Scattered, Smothered, Diced and Greened Homefries

   Krystal mini pizzas  
Krystal Mini Pizzas

 If you have any interest in owning one of these things, I am offering copies for $3.00 each plus shipping. For shipping within the U.S., add $1 shipping for one copy via First Class Mail. If you want a copy of Down Yonder #1 and Down Yonder #2, that'll be $6 plus $2 shipping. For shipping outside of the U.S. and for shipping of multiple copies, please send me an email so I can give you a shipping total. Payment through PayPal, please! My PayPal email address for payments and correspondence is leighsaluzzi (at) yahoo dot com.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

I'm a weiner! I'm a weiner!

Back in the late nineties-early 2000's, I used to try to win stuff on the radio all the time. And I guess I had some magic phone dialing skillz, because I won fairly often. Concert tickets were the prize mostly, but occasionally I would score pizza, t-shirts, or a random CD (Oh, THAT'S where that Ween CD came from!) I also attribute my winnings to working in a darkroom, where listening to the radio was the only protection I had from year-round SAD.

The biggest prize I ever won was with a game that a morning show ran every year. They would talk to someone on January 1st, and name them the first caller of the year. Then on the last on-air day in December they would take the first caller who could correctly name the person from January. I wrote that person's name down and put it in my wallet, and on January 2001 I won that prize. It was a pair of tickets to any ten concerts the station had tickets for in the entire year. Ten pairs of tickets! I had more tickets that year than I could find artists I liked enough to go see. I ended up getting tickets for friends because I just couldn't use them all. I've seen Tori Amos in concert almost every time she has toured Atlanta since 1994, and I got those for free that year. I also dragged Ken to an OzzFest to see Black Sabbath that year as well. Barenaked Ladies is one of my embarrassing crush pop bands, and I got to have fun at that show for free, too. A great prize package! That is the last time I remember winning anything at all, a full twelve years ago.

Last week I broke my streak and was shocked to have taken first place in a Holiday Cookie Contest that VegNews Magazine held!! This was the first time I ever entered a cooking or baking contest, and it was harder than I thought it would be. I made several attempts at a dark chocolate peppermint fudge cookie and it kept bombing. After wasting too much flour and sugar I decided "fuck it". But some friends and Ken encouraged me to try again, and I managed to come up with a cookie that I thought sounded weird but good. On the night before the contest deadline, I worked out a soft sugar cookie with pumpkin pie spice and applesauce. I had some old maple extract gathering dust on the shelf, so I added it to a buttercream filling and viloa! Apple Pie Cookies with Maple Cream Filling. Ken said they were awesome, but after tasting the ingredients all night the flavors were making me a bit woozy, so I had to take his word for it. I entered the contest with no real expectations and a week later- BAM! I won a Vitamix! I am totally not bragging, I am just excited and surprised the judges picked my cookies! Wow!

                                VegNews made this pretty picture, not me.

Here's the recipe for you. I hope you enjoy them as much as I will enjoy making green smoothies and cashew cheese sauce in my precious new Vitamix.

Apple Pie Cookie with Maple Cream Filling

Makes 12 cookie sandwiches

What You Need: 
For the cookies:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pumpkin-pie spice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup vegan margarine, at room temperature
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla
For the filling:
1/2 cup vegan shortening, at room temperature
1/2 cup vegan margarine, at room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup vanilla soymilk
1 teaspoon maple extract

What You Do:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. For the cookies, lightly oil a large cookie sheet or line with parchment paper. In a large bowl, add flours, baking powder, salt, pumpkin-pie spice, and cinnamon. With an electric hand mixer, in a medium bowl, mix together margarine and sugar until creamy. Add applesauce and vanilla and mix again until incorporated. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients in several batches until well mixed.
2. Take 2 tablespoons of batter and roll dough into a ball with your hand, then press down to make a thick cookie. Place cookies about an inch apart on prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, removing from oven when they are slightly soft. Let cool for a few minutes before moving them to a cooling rack. Cookies will firm up as they cool. 
3. For the filling, with an electric mixer or stand mixer, cream together shortening and margarine. Add powdered sugar and continue to mix until incorporated. While the mixer is going, slowly add 1 to 2 tablespoons soymilk until filling is creamy but still thick. Add no more than 1/4 cup soymilk total. Add maple extract and mix on medium speed for about 2 minutes until filling is very creamy with some peaks.
4. Once cookies are completely cooled, scoop a dollop of cream filling on flat side of one cookie. Top with another cookie and squish slightly. Repeat until all cookie sandwiches are assembled.

Friday, December 07, 2012

DY2 Preview- Scattered, Smothered, Diced & Greened

I'm having a lot of fun working on the second issue of Down Yonder! Keeping with the southern food theme from the first issue, the second Down Yonder is #2: The Metal Years. 

 The Down Yonder series is a way for me to dig into my personal food nostalgia to try and understand where my current eating habits come from. In Volume 1: Marlene, I stumbled down memory lane in honor of my mom, and the food we shared together when I was a kid. While there is no doubt the food I was introduced to as a young kid helped shape my tastes, I think there is also something to be said about my teenage years. I was just starting to really make my own food choices around age 15 or so. With a little bit of money in my pocket from various summer jobs, coupled with having some friends with driving privileges, it was a recipe for junk food and bad food choices. I have fond memories of some pretty crap food from that time. The food you find in DY2 may not all be traditional southern food, but they are certainly based on some regional restaurant favorites. Down Yonder Volume 2: The Metal Years is dedicated to all my Georgia metalhead friends, our late night Waffle House binges and post show Krystal eating competitions.
Horns up. \m/ \m/



Scattered, Smothered, Diced & Greened Home Fries

Oh, Waffle House. How you used to tempt me with your ridiculously cheap breakfast food available 24 hours a day on virtually every corner of every street in every city in Georgia. How you used to disgust me with your sticky bench seats, full ashtrays, needle scattered bathrooms and jukeboxes full of Bad Company. I found myself at a Waffle House pretty often during the metal years, mostly because it’s where you would go with a five dollar bill to get full on a patty melt and a side of hashbrowns late at night or after a show. The big appeal of WF hashbrowns is the toppings: First you order them “Scattered” which is just fancy talk for “plain”. Then you build upon your mountain of the finest GMO spuds ever delivered by a Sysco truck in Waffle House lingo like this:
Smothered- with onions
Covered- with cheese
Chunked- with ham
Topped- with chili
Diced- with tomatoes
Peppered- with jalapenos
Capped- with mushrooms

Have yours any way you want, but this lady likes hers with onions, tomatoes, and greens. At home of course, because there ain’t a damn thing vegan in that joint besides coffee. And I wouldn’t even trust that. I make fried potatoes cut up as home fries because I hate peeling potatoes and I’ll be damned if I’m shredding them by hand.

1 lb. yukon gold or other small starchy potatoes, quartered
1 small onion, diced
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1 bag baby spinach, or another favorite baby green
1/3 cup toasted sesame oil- you can use any oil you want, but I strongly suggest toasted sesame for a more bacon-like flavor
salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet, heat oil on medium high heat. Cook the diced onion until soft, about three minutes. Add potatoes in a single layer to ensure even cooking. Let the heat and oil do it’s thing until the potatoes start to brown, then flip the potatoes. Add the tomatoes in a layer over the potatoes, then add the spinach over the tomatoes. Get those potatoes good and brown, and test one for softness by piercing with a fork. Once the potatoes are soft enough for your liking, stir the tomatoes and spinach in the potatoes until everything is mixed up good. When the spinach is wilted, it’s time to plate those potatoes and add salt and pepper. Hot sauce too, if you swing that way.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Down Yonder- the zine.

Hey, I made a little zine! Down Yonder Volume 1: Marlene is finished, and I think it's kind of cute.



I was raised in the south, by southern parents. Even when I went vegetarian in the early 90’s, then vegan in 2001, my eating habits kept just a hint of my Georgia roots- a little deep fried, (eggless) mayonnaise laden, and kissed with a few prepackaged ingredients. I guess you can take the girl out of the trailer, but you can’t take the trailer out of the girl. Or something like that. I’m using the Down Yonder series as a way for me to dig deep into my personal food nostalgia, to explore where my current eating habits come from.
Marlene is my sweet Georgia mom. The first volume of Down Yonder is a collection of recipes inspired by mom (Marlene!) and by summertime in the south.

The recipes:

-Proper Sweet Tea
-Preserves Milkshake
-Savory Breakfast Jackpots
-Strawberry Salad with Candied Cashews and Buttermilk Dressing
-Kinda Spicy Potato Salad
-Summer Tomato Tart
-Squash ‘em Sandwiches
-Frito Corn Fritters with Green Onion Cream
-Snickers Cake
-No Bake Chocolate Cherry Bars

breakfast jackpots
Savory Breakfast Jackpots

frito corn fritters
Frito Corn Fritters

summer tomato tart
Summer Tomato Tart

While I can't imagine anyone being interested in this zine besides my mom, I am offering copies for $3.50 each plus shipping. For shipping within the U.S., add $2 shipping for one copy via First Class Mail. For shipping outside of the U.S. and for shipping of multiple copies, please send me an email so I can give you a shipping total. Payment through PayPal, please! My PayPal email address for payments and correspondence is leighsaluzzi (at) yahoo dot com.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Keep your fork, there's pie!

Just for fun and to keep myself interested in something other than my kid all day, I've been working on my first volume of my very first cook zine titled Down Yonder. While I know there are plenty of vegan southern themed zines around, I feel like my southern roots are a little different than just biscuits and gravy. Not that I have anything against biscuits and gravy, cuz I'll go to town on that shit. What I mean is, I was raised in the south on prepackaged convenience foods by low income southern parents. So my food memories have nothing to do with mint juleps. But as a vegan adult, I do try to care about what I put in my mouth, at least more so than I did as a kid. 
  
My goal with Down Yonder is to not just to veganize my old favorites, but to put a more mature spin on them. In most cases, anyway. Volume 1 is titled Marlene, because that's my mom's name and all of the recipes are in some way inspired by her. If all goes well, I hope to have this thing finished by July. We will see how that goes. And hey! Here's a sample recipe for you! One of my favorites in Marlene so far.


Well, I call it a tart, but it kind of is a pie. I made mine in a tart pan so it's not as thick as a pie should probably be. If you make this in an 8" pan, you can call it a pie. Or a tart. Just don't call me late to supper. 

Summer Tomato Tart


One of my all time favorite comfort foods is a tomato sandwich- toasted bread, a little Vegenaise, a couple tomato slices and a sprinkle of salt. I definitely got this simple sandwich habit (with Hellman's, not Vegenaise) from my mom. I went up yonder to visit mom recently, and she asked me if I wanted a tomato sandwich, just as she had asked me a hundred times in my childhood. I put together this tart recipe to mimic the summer flavors of a good tomato sandwich, but with a little extra bit of fancy for a potluck side dish. This tart is best served cold within 24 hours of making it.

For the crust
- 2 cups breadcrumbs from day old bread (Italian bread, sandwich bread, sourdough, stale hot dog buns...whatever you have is fine)
-4 Tbsp melted vegan margarine 

For the filling
-5 small or 3 large red slicing tomatoes, ripe and ready to eat
- sprinkle of salt
-7-10 leaves of fresh basil
-1/2 small Vidalia onion, sliced thin
-1 package Mori Nu Silken Tofu, Extra Firm or Firm (must be silken, not the fridge tofu)
-1 Tbsp oil
-2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
-1 tsp garlic powder
-1 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp mustard powder

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly oil an 8” round pie plate or pan. Place breadcrumbs in a bowl and pour the melted margarine over the crumbs. Toss well with a fork until the margarine is evenly distributed. Firmly press the crumbs into the prepared pan. It’s okay if the crumbs go up the sides a bit. Bake the crust in the middle rack of oven for 10 minutes. Allow crust to cool while you prepare the filling and move the oven temp up to 375F.

  Slice tomatoes to about ¼” thickness and lay them in a single layer on a paper towel lined plate. Sprinkle the slices evenly with salt. Set tomatoes aside to drain on the paper towels.
  In a blender or food processor add tofu, oil, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, salt and mustard powder. Blend until very smooth and creamy. Pour this mixture onto the cooled crust and spread out evenly using the back of a large spoon.

  Place the tomato slices in a single layer on top of the tofu mixture. Add the basil leaves on top of the tomatoes, then add the onion slices over that. Bake at 375F for 20-25 minutes, until tart looks lightly browned and is just starting to pull away from the sides of the pan. Allow to cool in pan on a cooling rack for 30 minutes, then chill tart for at least four hours before serving.