Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Hike and Wegmans Lunch

Sunday I started my morning bright and early with a chocolate banana protein shake.  Yum! 
After breakfast my boyfriend and I went rock climbing and then headed out to enjoy the weather with a hike near Pretty Boy Reservoir Park
The area was beautiful and the weather was perfect, but unfortunately we didn't get to enjoy the hike much because we hadn't done our research about trails first.  We just mapped the park on the iPhone, parked, and looked around until we found a trail.  The trail led us about half a mile along the reservoir before petering out and forcing us to turn around. 

We did manage to spot some beautiful flowers along the way in addition to the great reservoir views, but not much of anything else ...

After hiking we headed over to Wegman's to pick up groceries and have lunch from their prepared foods section.  They have almost anything you can imagine, and helpfully label everything that is vegetarian or vegan, so it's easy to put together a tasty lunch. 

I put together a box with a beet and spinach salad, gardein chicken tenders, and falafel patties with vegan yogurt sauce.  The falafel had an odd consistency - like the chickpea mixture had been pureed too smooth, but the sauce was amazing and it ended up being my favorite item! 

I also avoided the sweet treats section and put together some mixed fruit for dessert instead.  Yay for healthy me! 

But healthy willpower only holds out for so long ...  Later at home that afternoon I had a big spoonful of Biscoff spread as a snack. 

For dinner it was leftover paella.  Didn't I say I would be eating this all week?!?!  There's still a ton left, so expect to see a lot more of it in upcoming posts ...

Monday, April 29, 2013

Another Experiment With Cashew Cream

Saturday night I tried my hand at working with cashew cream again.  Having pre-soaked raw cashews overnight, I blended them together with water, nutritional yeast, apple cider vinegar, some roasted garlic, and garlic powder (when the roasted garlic alone wasn't cutting it).  I didn't measure any of the ingredients, but just sort of added and mixed until I liked the flavor.  It came out rich and garlicky.  And my little cuisinart blender did surprising well at blending everything into a nice, creamy sauce in not too much time (maybe a total of 5 minutes of blending?). 

While mixing up the garlic cream sauce, I browned some polenta rounds in a pan then removed them and browned chopped brussel sprouts - saving dishes! 
The garlic sauce served over polenta and brussel sprouts turned out to be a real winner for dinner.  My boyfriend even remarked that it didn't seem like a typical vegan dinner "but was actually filling."  I guess that's high praise.  The only downside was that I probably should have cooked up some more polenta to even out the proportions.  Noted for next time.  And there will definitely be a next time on this one.   

Baltimore Veg Fest

Saturday I spent the morning running errands, including using a Groupon to get a much needed haircut.  In the afternoon, I headed over to Baltimore VegFest to check out vendors of delicious vegan food and other vegan products.  There was a pretty good turnout, and the weather and location were great for the event. 
There were tons of booths and food carts set up.  I wish I'd shown up hungrier! 

I ended up breaking down for a few food samples.  After tasting a couple of the options at the Peanut Butter & Co. booth I succumbed to their 3 for $10 deal and bought a dark chocolate dreams, white chocolate wonderful, and crunch time.  Can you believe these are all vegan?!?!

The white chocolate wonderful was my favorite.  It tastes just like peanut butter frosting.  I'll be eating this one with a spoon straight out of the jar! 

I also picked up a sample of vegan dog food.  My boyfriend's parents have two older dogs that could both stand to lose some weight.  I'm hoping they will like this little treat that will also be good for their health! 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

So Much Vegan Paella!

Friday for lunch I made a taco sandwich from random ingredients left in the fridge: seasoned ground "beef", nacho teese, green bell pepper, onion, and vegan sour cream. It was pretty reminiscent of a sloppy joe ... and definitely just as sloppy.  I wouldn't call this recipe a winner.  It's probably not a sandwich I would look to make again, but it wasn't bad. Maybe if I just happen to have those leftovers again someday.
Later in the afternoon I snacked on some sesame sticks from Whole Foods.  These are a great salty snack ... and they help keep me away from the Biscoff cookie on a spoon!   

For dinner I decided to try my hand at a somewhat complicated recipe for vegan paella.  I don't think I've ever had "real" paella before, so I don't have much to compare this against, but everything that went into it looked good so I had high hopes for this recipe.  I've also heard good things about Candle 79 in New York, so I thought I'd give this a shot.
The recipe called for a ton of ingredients, but it wasn't too difficult to put together.  Into the mix went: corn, tomatoes, cauliflower, red bell pepper, mushrooms, onion, garlic, saffron, paprika, rice, and vegetarian sausage.  The recipe originally called for a green bell pepper as well, but I subbed in green chilies for a little extra spice. 
The most important ingredients for this are really the saffron and smoked paprika, which are the most important flavors in the dish.  The saffron is soaked in water and poured into the rice to get absorbed and flavor the rice throughout. 
Then it's just a matter of cooking everything for a long time until you end up with a tasty mashup. 

Everything gets mixed together at the end and you remove it from the heat and let it rest under a towel for a bit to let the flavors meld together.  In all, it probably took about an hour to prepare.  Not something I would have time for every night, but it wasn't too much if you have the time to devote. 
Plus, though the recipe said "6 servings" I think we ended up with more like 10!  We're going to be eating paella all week!  Good thing it's tasty. 

Apparently Laziness Wins Over Healthy ... Pizza Night!

For breakfast Thursday I experimented a bit with my usual protein shake by adding some vanilla soy yogurt to the mix.  When I ate dairy products, I still wasn't much of a yogurt per son, and maybe this should have tipped me off that I wouldn't be much for soy yogurt either.  Plus, if I'm not really missing or craving something, why should I go out and try to add it to my diet?
So this will probably be the last vegan yogurt I buy ... unless I come across some recipe that calls for it specifically.  And then maybe I'll try almond or coconut yogurt instead. 
Adding yogurt to my smoothie made it thicker and probably upped the protein count, but I'm not sure I need it with protein powder in the mix too.  For Thursday's smoothie I mixed the yogurt, vanilla soymilk, vanilla protein powder, flax seed, a banana, frozen blueberries, and frozen raspberries.  That sounds like an incredibly involved smoothie ...  But it was delicious and filled me up until lunch. 
For lunch I enjoyed leftover Asian tofu and edamame
Mid-afternoon I snacked on some grape tomatoes and a plum ... continuing in my goal to eat healthy! 
Unfortunately, once dinner rolled around it seemed healthiness went a bit out the window in favor of easiness.  Not feeling like making dinner myself, I oped for pizza takeout from Papa John's.  I ordered a green pepper and onion pizza with cheese on half ... and we devoured the whole thing!!!  Not healthy at all.  But it was definitely tasty. 
Didn't I say something about baby steps?  Maybe I meant ant steps ...

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Tofu Overload?

After eating Italian tofu sandwiches for dinner on Sunday, my boyfriend declared that he was sick of tofu and didn't want to have any for a while.  Apparently, he was on tofu overload.  Fortunately, I don't think I'm susceptible to this affliction, so when he was elsewhere for dinner Wednesday I decided to make Asian tofu again just for me! 
I started by pressing my tofu, then browning it in oil on both sides.  In the last few minutes I added frozen edamame and topped it all off with Thai peanut sauce. 
Not just tofu overload ... this was soy overload at its finest.  I served it all over white rice and it was delicious!  Plus there was enough leftover for lunch the next day (always handy for rushed mornings). 

After dinner I had a big spoonful of Biscoff spread for a sweet treat.  This stuff is seriously addicting.  I think when this jar runs out I should probably wait a while before replacing it.  Well, at least as long as I can stand to be without it ... which may not be long at all. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Vowing to Eat Healthier

Confession time.  Remember those delicious Oreo cookie cookies?  Well, the recipe didn't use up the entire box of double stuff Oreos.  In fact, it only used about a third of it.  I took the rest of the cookies to work and stashed them in my office, where I've been going crazy and having them as a snack twice a day.  Not good.  In fact, I've been eating pretty unhealthy all around lately. 
So in the spirit of trying to eat healthier without sacrificing my beloved convenience, Wednesday for lunch I opted for this Mayan Harvest Bake frozen meal from Kashi. 
Kashi helpfully tells you exactly which of their frozen meals are vegan - turns out only two are: this one and the Black Bean Mango - but I guess I will take what I can get. 
The Mayan Harvest Bake actually turned out to be really good, considering it is frozen convenience food. 
It came with plantains, black beans, sweet potato, kale, polenta, pumpkin seeds, and ancho chili sauce.  Yum! 
Later in the afternoon, I snacked on some carrot sticks and a plum.  And maybe a few more Oreos.  Baby steps! 

B.A.T. - Bacon, Avocado and Tomato Sandwich

After being busy busy busy last weekend and Monday, Tuesday was pretty uneventful.  For lunch I had leftover wild rice soup and sourdough bread.  Again, non-vegan ... but tasty. 

For dinner I was feeling pretty lazy, so I whipped up some B.A.T. sandwiches - that's "bacon", avocado, and tomato.  Avocado beats lettuce every time, hands down. 
For the "bacon" I used LighLife smart bacon, which is the same fake bacon we used to make Spaghetti alla carbonara in the Vegan Italian cooking class my boyfriend and I took a while back. 
The smart bacon cooked up crispy in the pan just like real bacon ... or at least I think so?  I never really had a lot of experience with real bacon even when I ate meat, and I don't think I've ever cooked it myself.  But the fake stuff has a nice smoky flavor and doesn't have the disgusting looking fat dripping off of it, so it's a winner in my book. 

The only thing you need to watch for is that it can turn from brown and crispy to black and burnt very fast.  Maybe some people would prefer it that way, but I like my food char-free. 

The balance of avocado, tomato, and smoky bacon made for a delicious sandwich and I will definitely be making these again soon. Plus they were quick, easy, and felt relatively healthy too. Maybe next time I will add something on the side to make it feel more like a real dinner ... if I'm feeling ambitious. 

Baltimore Vegan Drinks

Monday night after dinner I stopped by Baltimore Vegan Drinks' monthly happy hour.  I'd been to a coupld of these before, but I haven't made it a regular thing yet.  This month's happy hour was held at One World Cafe, so I knew I had to go get one of their delicious desserts! 

I was feeling a little guilty about going after having a non-vegan dinner, but I decided not going was like cutting off my nose to spite my face (I kind of hate that saying, but I guess it's appropriate here).  Even after having non-vegan dinner, it didn't help me, animals, or anyone else to skip the vegan get-together.  But by going I would get to meet and reconnect with great vegans and hopefully re-inspire me to keep eating vegan.  And I knew tasty vegan treats wouldn't hurt either!
A lot of people at the happy hour were eating dinner, but I went straight for the drinks and dessert and ordered a blueberry (alcoholic) drink and a red velvet cupcake.  The drink was amazing and tasted just like fresh blueberries.  The cupcake was really good too, but it didn't seem like they even tried to make fake cream cheese icing but went with plain vanilla instead.  Someone seated next to me got the red velvet too and felt the same.  I guess I should have gone with the chocolate-chocolate cupcake.  Live and learn ...
All in all it was a great evening and I'm so glad I went.  Unfortunately the next happy hour is a bit further afield for me, so I'll probably skip it.  But I will definitely be attending more of these when they are in Baltimore City. 

What To Do With a Non-Vegan Gift?

Over the holidays a friend of mine from high school visited Minnesota (where we both grew up) and I watched her cats while she and her husband were away.  When she got back she brought me a few tasty treats from the homeland, including this cream of mushroom wild rice soup. 
In case you weren't aware, wild rice is big in Minnesota, where it is the official state grain. 
I wonder what the Maryland state grain is ...
Anyway, my friend was so thoughtful to bring me these gifts.  At the time she brought them back, I was not yet vegan, so this particular conundrum might actually fall under the category of "non-vegan food I already own", which I discussed previously and believe I've come to terms with.  But let's pretend my friend had actually brought me this soup last week either because she didn't know I was vegan or hadn't looked closely at the ingredients ... which include both milk powder  and whey.  Then what would I do? 
If my friend had brought me back some authentic Minnesota t-bones (or whatever meat happens to be particularly Minnesotan ... I'm not really sure), I certainly wouldn't eat them.  The friend who gifted the soup to me is vegetarian herself and I've been vegetarian so long people that about me and I doubt it would ever realistically be an issue. 
But is it fair or reasonable to say that I would never eat a meat gift but would eat a vegetarian, non-vegan gift?  In either scenario the animal suffering has already occurred and the food would simply go to waste otherwise.  I could re-gift the item to someone else who would enjoy it.  In fact, were I to be gifted with said t-bone or some other meat item, that's likely what I would do.  And perhaps one day that would be my chosen course in a situation like I had with this soup.  But I also feel torn because this was an item chosen for me in particular, and regifting it would seem ungrateful. 

I suppose the longer I am vegan the less likely I will be to face this type of situation.  And if it does arise again in the future, I will just have to take it on a case-by-case basis.  For this case, however, my boyfriend and I enjoyed the soup for dinner Monday evening with some lovely sour dough bread.  It was delicious and reminded me of home. 
Has something like this ever happened to you?  What did you do in that situation? 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Oreo Cookie Cookies!

Sunday at Whole Foods I spotted these delicious looking s'mores cookies.  But sadly these are definitely not vegan (because of the marshmallow they're not even vegetarian) so I had to go without.  So to make up for it, Monday afternoon I decided to get my bake on and whip up a batch of Oreo cookie cookies.  That's right, one entire kind of cookie is just one ingredient in these cookies! 
To make these I followed the standard Nestle chocolate chip cookie recipe (from the back of the chocolate chip bag) but replaced the chocolate chips with a bunch of crumbled up Oreos - double stuff, of course! 

The Nestle recipe calls for both eggs and butter, so naturally I turned to my new favorite vegan substitutions.  For butter I subbed in Earth Balance vegan butter.  For the eggs, I turned to Ener-G egg replacer.  The egg replacer comes as a powder that you mix with water to get a bubbly, slightly-beaten-egg-white-looking mix that you toss in to your recipe as you would one whole egg. 

As always, Panda was very helpful and offered to climb into the sink to lick off the mixing beaters when I was done. 

The cookies baked up beautifully and the batch I brought into work was highly praised and gone by the end of the day.  I would call that a success!  Only one person even realized they were vegan - and only because she remembered that I am. 

For lunch Monday I had leftover mac 'n cheese - the very last bit of the original mac 'n cheese sauce.  :(  I will definitely be making that again soon.  It even reheats well! 

On the side I had my consolation prize from the trip to Whole Foods where I couldn't get a cookie - a pretzel roll.  I think this looked good at the time because I couldn't have a cookie and really wanted to get something regardless of what it was, but it didn't turn out to be a very good idea.  It wasn't as good as a pretzel, and it wasn't even as good as a regular roll.  It was just dry and pretty tasteless.  Oh well.  Live and learn ... and bake more often!