Friday, March 29, 2013

No More Cadbury Cream Eggs

I'm not Christian, so I don't really give much thought to Easter each year ... except of course for the sudden availability of Cadbury cream eggs.  These little candy miracles are so uber sweet that I only ever allowed myself two each year (one when they first make an appearance, and one last minute clearance buy once Easter is over).  But sadly this year will be Cadbury egg-free for me :( 
Chocolate Covered Katie actually has a vegan recipe for her healthy Cadbury cream eggs, but her version fills chocolate egg shells with ice cream for the "cream" and mango or peaches for the "yolk".  An interesting idea, but not exactly trying to replicate the Cadbury cream egg.  Maybe I'll feel ambitious in future years to try to create something for myself, but for today it's more chocolate covered strawberries.  Hey, at least it's chocolate covered something

Salty Snack Attack

As you know, I'm basically a snack-a-holic, so when I read the ingredient list on this Popcorn Indiana kettlecorn and saw that it's vegan I was over the moon.  I like to have a not-too-heavy snack that I can munch on - especially in the afternoons at work when I'm bored and need to occupy myself without eating anything too too bad for me.  This sweet and salty snack has been perfect.  I just need to keep myself from eating the whole bag at once! 

Pantry Lunch

I got a little flustered on my way to work yesterday thanks to some annoyance from my apartment building's management, so somehow I managed to leave for work without actual bringing any food to eat during the day.  Oops.  Worse still, it was a busy day at work so I didn't have time to go out in search of vegan takeaway. 

Fortunately I stock a few extra snacks in my office cupboards for just such an occasion.  For lunch I ate Amy's organic chili.  Like my previous experience with Amy's soup, this one was only so-so.  I could easily see it being a lot better "dressed up" with some crackers, extra spices, and maybe some vegan sour cream (I haven't gotten around to trying vegan sour cream yet, so I don't know if that would actually make it better or not). 

Mid-afternoon I needed a snack (I'm telling you - I'm snackzilla over here), so I had a couple packets of Quaker oatmeal.  Not exactly the healthiest day, but at least I didn't starve to death. 

Butternut Squash Ravioli and Mushroom Appetizer

Last night for dinner I made a great meal that seemed really impressive but was actually incredibly easy.  I made a tasty marinated mushroom appetizer and butternut squash risotto entree.  The mushroom appetizer was super simple.  It was just 1/2 pound of sliced mushrooms, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, salt, pepper, and oregano.  After washing the mushrooms, saute with a bit of olive oil for a few minutes, then add a splash of vinegar and seasoning to taste.  Let it all cook down while starting to boil the pasta. 
The pasta was a great find at Mom's Organic Market, where I scoured the ingredient lists on the Rising Moon pastas until I found two that were vegan. 
The butternut squash ravioli was actually my favorite when I was vegetarian, but I never looked to see that it was actually an amazing vegan treat! 
My favorite way to serve butternut squash ravioli is simply tossed with a bit of butter (Earth Balance), sage, and black pepper.

And then of course serve with a little vegan Parmesan :) 


Look how impressive these super dishes look - almost restaurant-worthy! 
After dinner we both still wanted a little sweet treat, so I melted some Whole Foods chocolate chips and dipped a few strawberries.  My technique on this definitely needs work, because only the first few ever end up looking like the beautiful dipped strawberries the professionals make, and the last ones end up all goopy and uneven, but they still taste great!  I guess the professionals waste a lot of chocolate, whereas I want to use every last drop so I end up kind of spooning it onto the last few strawberries ...  But like I said, tasty nonetheless!  The perfect dessert. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Vegan Passover

Remember me mentioning last week that I was nervous about being invited over for vegan dinner at my boyfriend's parents' house?   Turns out my worry was completely unnecessary!  We were invited over for a belated Passover Tuesday and my boyfriend's father prepared a delicious Indian dinner, substituting oil for ghee, and his mother made dessert - grapfruit sorbet!  It was terrific (if a little out of season - it would be an amazing summer treat).  They also gave us this thoughtful Passover present - a vegan soul food cookbook.  I can't wait to make something from this book - and I will be sure to share the results. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Panera Bagels!

When a big box of Panera bagels was delivered to my office the other day, I thought I was yet again going to be deprived of feeling like a normal part of my office community.   But on a whim, I decided to use the wonders of the Internet to find out if, just maybe, Panera made vegan bagels.  And, lo and behold, they do!!!

I found this statement online from a very helpful person who did the work of actually contacting the company:
Thank you for contacting Panera Bread. L-cysteine is a minor constituent of a bagel base commonly and widely used in the baking industry as a dough conditioner. However, we have recently introduced a new natural bagel base that does not use l-cysteine or cysteine. Neither was ever an ingredient in our Artisan breads. For other items, please check ingredients on our online nutrition calculator.
Gotta love the Internet for its ability to help you find answers to questions you're too lazy to figure out for yourself :)  Now it's back to my quest to find good vegan cream cheese ...

Convenience Food Love - Riblet Sandwich with Sweet Potato Wedges

I wound up eating dinner alone Monday night (out of work early - yay!), so I felt like making something easy that wouldn't leave me with eight servings of leftovers. Though I've been doing it a lot lately, this meant I turned yet again to pre-packaged food. But I balanced it out a bit by making homemade sweet potato wedges as a side.   

The wedges are incredibly simple - just cut up wedges, toss with a bit of olive oil and seasoning of choice (in MD this means Old Bay), and bake for about an hour, turning once half-way through.

When the wedges were almost finished I got to work heating up the riblets (I always think of the Simpson's bit about the Ribwich when I eat these, but I'm sure this is way tastier than either the Ribwich or it's cousin, the McRib).  After losing two of my MorningStar favorites, I was really happy to see that at least one convenience food I'd gotten used to was actually vegan. 
My riblet sandwich on a toasted bun with sweet potato wedges on the side proved to be a simple and not-overly-bad-for-you dinner for one.  Horray for vegan convenience foods!   

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Vegan Tuna Sandwich

I've spent a lot more time lately thinking about food  than I normally do - probably more than I normally do all year!   I've become obsessed with planning out lunches, dinners, snacks, and get togethers with friends.   For lunch I needed to take a step back, so I turned to a long-time favorite lunch that just so happens to be vegan. 

My boyfriend and I discovered Asmar's vegetarian tuna salad at Whole Foods a few years ago.  Though it's labeled "vegetarian", it's actually vegan - using veganaise instead of mayo.  It's not an exact replica of real tuna salad, but it's an amazing substitute.  All I need for this amazing sandwich is some toasted bread and pickles.  Easy, tasty, vegan ... why yes, this is the perfect lunch. 

Anniversary Dinner at One World Cafe

My boyfriend and I celebrated our 8th anniversary over the weekend - we use the day we met because we didn't go on a "real date" right away, as college students so often do.   Since we were heading to our friends' house on the "actual" night, Saturday, we decided to celebrate a fake-iversary on Sunday instead.

Because I've been having so much anxiety over eating vegan lately, we decided to head to One World Cafe for dinner - an extremely vegetarian- and vegan- friendly restaurant in Baltimore (probably the most vegan-friendly).   Bonus points: it's right by our alma mater and made us reminiscent of when we were first dating.  Awww ... 

I ordered the OWC wrap sandwich (mixed greens, guacamole, sliced tomato, grated carrot, fresh herbs and sprouts on a sprouted grain tortilla with garlic herb dressing), and my boyfriend ordered the vegan jambalaya (red beans, meatless sausage and Cajun mixed vegetables over organic brown rice).   Both were delicious!   The jambalaya came with cornbread with vegan maple butter on the side - yum!   I might have helped myself to half his cornbread :)

I was most excited for dessert because I know One World has amazing vegan treats and I've been in dire need lately, but unfortunately they were out of all their vegan desserts!  I will definitely be going back soon to satisfy my sweet tooth.  Even without dessert, it was a great dinner with the best dining partner around!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Vegan Desserts - Cream Cheese Failure

After my dessert-deprived Saturday night, I was eager to make a vegan sweet treat to make myself feel more like a normal member of society again.  I turned to this vegan cream cheese filled coffee cake recipe from the book Vegan Junk Food (by way of the blog Chocolate Covered Katie).  I love cream cheese, I love cake, and I love sweets in general, so I was so excited to make this treat.

The recipe had three elements: cake batter, cream cheese filling, and crumble topping.  The cake batter was a bit thick, but it spread well enough.  The cake batter sandwiched a center cream cheese layer.  The cream cheese layer used Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese as the main ingredient.  It looked and had the consistency of cream cheese, but I was incredibly disappointed by the flavor.  This is the vegan cream cheese that so many people rave about for being the closest approximation to cream cheese in taste and consistency, but the taste was horrible!!!  It really just tastes like tofu.  It has that beany tofu taste, rather than the bite of cream cheese. 
The realization that the "best" vegan cream cheese was actually a disgusting failure at approximating cheese was really difficult.  I had hoped that modern technology would really make it possible for me to enjoy all the foods I've always loved (or at least many of them), but Tofutti is no substitute at all.  And I can only assume that the people out there raving about it either have no idea (or can't remember) was real cream cheese tastes like or they never liked it in the first place so they're not looking to replace it.   

But back to the coffee cake ...
Panda spent a lot of time trying to help and offering to lick out any and all mixing bowls and other implements, so she seemed to be a big fan of the cake.  The crumble topping was also a huge failure.  There was either too much Earth Balance butter or not enough sugar and flour, because it wasn't a crumble but more of another batter than I tried to drop in smallish chunks over the top of the cake.  Not pretty ... 


The final product looked pretty good, with a lovely middle cream cheese layer, and even a "crumbly" texture to my failed topping.  Look how nice?  Unfortunately, the taste was disgusting!  I couldn't believe how over-salted it was.  The whole recipe called for 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt total (1/2 teaspoon in each of the three elements), which apparently was way too much.  It was really bad. 

My boyfriend said it wasn't that bad, but I'm pretty sure he was trying to be nice because I was already so dejected about the tofu-tasting cream cheese.  On the plus side, the salt covered up the tofu flavor ...

In an attempt to salvage the situation, I turned to a coconut cream recipe I learned on another favorite blog, Carrots 'N' Cake, but that I adapted to be vegan with Agave Nectar instead of honey. 

All you need to do is let a can of coconut milk sit for a few days (I tried once after just one day and either my can was a dud or one day wasn't long enough to let the coconut milk separate).  Then scoop off the milk solids at the top, leaving the yummy coconut water to mix with pineapple and other fruit for a tasty smoothie another day.  Spoon the solids into a small bowl and mix with a bit of vanilla extract and agave nectar for sweetness (I don't measure either but just taste as I go along until I get the flavor I want). 

Adding a scoop of coconut cream to the top of coffee cake piece # 2 was a slight improvement, but I'm not sure it was enough to keep me from throwing out the rest of the cake :( 
I realize that the major failure of this cake was the excessive amount of salt, but it was still really difficult to have such a horrible dessert failure.  Since yesterday, I've been furiously reading vegan cream cheese reviews in an attempt to find a better alternative, but most people seem to swear by the Tofutti version.  I guess I'll have to run my own taste test in an attempt to find a palatable alternative - assuming there is one out there.  Taste test post probably coming soon ...

Party Favors

Saturday night I attended my first party since "becoming vegan".   I was pretty nervous because it would be the first time I wasn't in control of what I could eat - I was at the mercy of whatever the hosts had to offer.   To help combat this, I stocked up on a few snacky items to bring with.  I brought a six-pack of Dog Fish Head 60 minute IPA, which I knew would be vegan, plus some hummus, pita chips, and olives stuffed with almonds - yum!   It was an extremely smart decision because I didn't warn the hosts of my diet issues and there wasn't much else I could eat.

There were all sort of delicious looking treats that I couldn't eat, which was pretty difficult.  The hosts had homemade strawberry cake and apple pie, and one of the other guests brought cupcakes - including the most delicious looking salted caramel cupcakes.  I would have made a bee-line to those in my pre-vegan days :( 
But I stuck to my vegan ideals and stayed away from the goodies.  It was horrible.  Desserts are my favorite kind of food, and staying away from the tasty treats was no fun.  I tried to shrug it off and remind myself that someone who was trying to lose weight or who had allergies would do the same thing.  It didn't make me any less a part of the party to stick to the veggies and hummus. 
But if I have the time before my next party outing, I'll probably make some vegan treat to share - and most importantly to appease my sweet tooth! 

Sunday, March 24, 2013


I've been a big fan of snacking for as long as I can remember.   If I could abandon meals altogether and just graze all day long I probably would. Obviously, this can also be a very bad habit that I have to reign in to keep from ending up huge.  But I know I have to indulge my inner snacker from time to time, so I like to keep snacks on hand at work to accommodate those times when I ... just ... have.... to ... snack.

Even more important lately, I've needed to have vegan snacks on hand so I can avoid these temptations that keep showing up at work:

So I brought in my own reinforcements to help curb any crazy cravings that would send me to the candy dish ... or worse.


Thanks to the handy PETA accidentally vegan list, I also found out that Keebler jumbo fudge sticks are vegan!  This was incredibly exciting because I've always loved the regular fudge stick cookies, so I thought the jumbo ones would be a great junk food to turn to (though I'm irritated that the regular ones aren't vegan ... such a small ingredient difference). 

Unfortunately, it turns out the jumbo fudge sticks are not just large cookies, but they're more like candy bars!  They come with only six to a box, each individually wrapped.  They're a bit lighter than a candy bar because of the light wafer filling, but it's still pretty intense ... and you certainly won't need two!  Check this thing out!
I do have quite small hands, but still ...  It's obvious this isn't really a "cookie" at all.  But it's still tasty, and nice to have on hand for a true junk food emergency.  I just wish they were more like half the size.  Or better yet, that the regular cookies were vegan!  Here that, elves? 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Food I Already Own

I have a confession. Three days after I "became vegan" I ate a sandwich with mozzarella. I justified it because it was in my fridge and would go bad if it wasn't eaten. Plus just a few days before I would have eaten it without a second thought. In fact, I think I did because it was already half eaten.

But now that the perishables are gone, the question becomes: what about those pesky non-vegan items that could just sit until my boyfriend or someone else takes care of them? These two items designed to make life easier for vegetarians still don't help me out as a vegan:

Worse still, I know there's some Mexican hot chocolate in the cupboard that my boyfriend will never drink.  If I don't do it, it's just going to go to waste.  I feel like I'm back to the cheesed salad I got a while back.  I can't bring myself to waste food.  So I will drink the hot chocolate.  But should I go out of my way to eat these MorningStar items just to get them out sooner than later?  Or should I hope my boyfriend eats them on his own (if I don't prepare them, he probably won't ...)? 
Fortunately I have dinner plans for tonight, so I don't have to make this decision now.  But I'd appreciate feedback on what others have done here! 

Helmand Gone Vegan

Last night my boyfriend and I met friends for dinner at The Helmand, one if the best restaurants in Baltimore and probably the best Afghan restaurant in the US ... (my sample size on that is three).  I was a little nervous that turning vegan would ruin my ability to enjoy all my favorite restaurants, but luckily this visit yet again proved that wasn't the case.

Planning ahead, I checked out the menu and realized my favorite dishes were vegan except for a yogurt sauce I could just ask for on the side.   Huge win!   In fact, it was such a huge win I gobbled everything up without even taking a picture ... Whomp whomp.   Bad blogger Lindsay!

But thanks to this great realization, and to the fact that the Helmand is walking distance from my apartment, you can bet I will be back soon and often.

Shoe Shopping Round 2!

After my failed Novacas attempt, imagine my surprise when I saw that the inside of my go-to black work pumps, made by Bandolino, said "made of quality man-made materials."  I own quite a few pairs of shoes by this brand, so it seems like a good option for my next vegan shoe attempt.   

Inspired by this discovery, I spent some quality time on Amazon looking for some more synthetic Bandolinos.  To narrow it down, I decided to get a new pair of nude work pumps.  I picked out these two pairs and ordered both to see which I liked better in person:

And the verdict?  I kept the top pair.  You can probably even tell from the picture above that the insole is incredibly soft and cushy, plus for some reason the top pair fit while the second was a little big (but both were the same size ... weird).  I also thought the color of the top pair looked better on me - the darker nude in the second pair made me look pale! 
I'm so excited to wear my new vegan shoes.  Now I just need spring to come so I can! 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Kabocha Squash Curry

Last night's dinner was a bit of an experiment. It started while shopping at Mom's Organic Market last weekend where my boyfriend spotted this kabocha squash.

Memories of tasty Thai curry at True Thai in Minneapolis (best Thai restaurant ever!) came pouring back and he announced that we needed to make curry this week. So last night I gathered ingredients and tried my best ... With so-so results.

I started by chopping up some onions and green pepper. 


And added ginger, garlic (yes, I cheat with the bottled versions rather than chopping it myself) and curry paste. 


After sauteing for a bit I added a can of coconut milk and got to preparing the squash.  First you need to cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds, just like scooping out a pumpkin for a jack-o-lantern.  Then you quarter each half and cut off the tough skin. 
Finally, cut up the peeled squash into bite-sized pieces.  Frankly, cutting up this squash was one of the scariest experiences of my life. I was certain I was going to cut myself badly if not actually sever a finger.  I'm not eager to do this in the future, even though I have some great ideas about how to improve this curry next time.  (Hello, chili peppers and pressed tofu!) 

The squash took forever to cook.  I was getting very impatient.  But about an hour after I tossed it into the pan everything was ready to go.  Next time maybe I'll precook the squash a bit before everything else gets started. 

I topped the final product with cilantro and a touch of lime juice and served it over white rice.  It was tasty but could definitely use more heat.  But now I have my plan of attack for next time.  (And it will start with me sharpening my knives!)