Monday, September 30, 2013

Run + Pizza = 0?

Thursday night I was feeling a bit tired of cooking dinner, plus we had both been feeling like pizza for a while, so we decided to take advantage of the Papa John's located right on the ground floor of our new apartment building.  To help even out the bad effects of a pizza dinner, we placed a delayed order for pickup and went for a run around the neighborhood.  Beyond the health benefits, this also gave us a great opportunity to explore our new surroundings a bit more. 
We ran nowhere in particular for about forty minutes (probably 2 1/2 miles) before returning to grab our pizza and watch "Batman Returns" - the 1992 Batman movie with Danny DeVito as Penguin and Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman.  Josh was not excited about watching it, but the movie really wasn't as bad as either of us expected it to be.  (Though I really could have done without all the black drool coming from Danny DeVito.) 
And yeah, we ate that whole pizza ...  Unfortunately, when you go for a run and then eat an entire pizza, you pretty much cancel out that run, plus the next two or three runs you take after that ...

Gardein "Chick'n" Sliders

Last week Josh and my healthy eating rebound from Scotland got a little derailed, and we found ourselves indulging in some less-than-nutritious meals.  It was a somewhat slow descent, so I'm confident we can get back on track quickly this week. 
It all started when I decided to make the Gardein chick'n sliders that had been sitting in the freezer for a while, just begging to be eaten.  Apparently I hadn't looked closely at the box, because I assumed there was nothing but chicken patties in there and got all the rest of the fixings for sandwiches, including lettuce, tomato, and little potato rolls - marked "great for sliders".  But as it turns out, the box already contained four rolls for the four sliders - no lettuce and tomato inside though. 
I baked up the sliders and rolls, then topped with lettuce, tomato, and vegannaise.  I also served jalapeno chips and little cornichon pickles on the side.  It was definitely delicious, though not the healthiest of meals.  At least there were veggies on the sliders!   
Now what to do with the 12 potato rolls in the freezer?  ....

Friday, September 27, 2013

Scottish Shortbread Cookies

Before our move to Silver Spring, I spent a little time going through our cookbooks to see if each one was worth keeping or if it should be passed on to Goodwill.  When I picked up the Williams-Sonoma Cookies book I got from a friend in college, I really didn't think I would be keeping it.  After all, you can find pretty much any cookie recipe you want online, and I figured everything in the W-S book would be full of eggs, milk, and butter.  And for the most part, a lot of the recipes were.  But there were a few recipes that seemed like they could be easily veganized (substituting Earth Balance, etc.).  And there's something to be said for browsing easily in a book rather than searching for something in particular online.  It opens you up to all sorts of new cookie possibilities!  Plus, I'm a huge cookie fan, so how could I get rid of such an important resource? 
Well, I'm so glad I kept this book!  Still feeling Scotland withdrawal, I decided to make Scottish shortbread cookies Monday, and fortunately I remembered that there was just such a recipe in the W-S book.  And even better, the only non-vegan item in the recipe was butter.  Thanks to Earth Balance, it was an easy substitution, and the cookies came out perfectly! 
Not only were they incredibly easy to make, they tasted amazing!  I had three straight out of the pan.  Half the batch went to Josh's parents' house when we visited for dinner Tuesday night.  And by mid-day Wednesday the last of the cookies were gone.  I'll definitely be making these again soon.  In fact, the current plan is to whip some up to take to work to share at lunch Tuesday.  Maybe I'll have to make two batches ... one for me, and one for everybody else! 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Weekend Trip to Phili

Over the weekend Josh and I took a quick, overnight trip to Philadelphia to attend a friend's wedding.  I'm sure Panda's not pleased that we keep messing up her life by going out of town, but fortunately things will be calming down soon (though not this weekend either!).  Luckily for us, Phili's only a 2 1/2 hour drive away, so the travel was a lot easier than a lot of our other traveling has been lately (Scotland, OBX, Rehoboth, New York ... whew!). 
On the way to Phili we stopped not too far from home to get a card for the couple, run to the bank for toll money, and grab lunch.  We had planned to stop at Potbelly for lunch, especially after my wonderful experience at the Dulles Airport location, but when we saw a Cosi in the same complex I just couldn't say no.  When I was in college I interned at a law firm, and when the lawyers used to send the lowly interns out to get their lunch at Cosi I was so excited to grab tons of free samples of Cosi bread - aka, the best bread ever!  It was especially great because I didn't have a lot of money (unpaid internship and all), so those samples would often be my actual lunch.  That and free hot chocolate from the kitchen! 
But now that times aren't as tough, I can indulge in an actual Cosi meal myself from time to time!  My favorite is the Signature Salad, minus the blue cheese.  Even without the cheese this salad has tons to offer - greens, red grapes, pears, craisins, and pistachios.  Plus, of course, yummy Cosi bread on the side.   
I was a little worried that the Cosi salad would end up being my last meal of the day and I wouldn't have anything to eat at the wedding, but that was far from the truth!  I checked out the buffet menu during the cocktail hour, while I scarfed down fresh fruit and veggies, plus hummus and crackers.  The menu inlcuded steamed veggies, a cheeseless salad, and pasta marina (also with no cheese!).  I'm guessing someone of great significance to either the bride or groom (or both) is lactose intolerant ...  But yay for me!  I had a ton of food for dinner, plus while everyone else ate cake and other delicious-looking desserts, I still got to indulge my sweet tooth by busting into the table place cards that were filled with dark chocolate.  How cute are those?! 
The next day we spent a little time with friends roaming around Philadelphia before driving home.  We stopped at about four different food places grabbing various options along the way, but I didn't find much to eat until we used Yelp to find HipCityVeg, an entirely vegan cafe with a pretty varied and tasty-looking menu. 
I immediately honed in on the Curry Tofu Wrap, while Josh ordered the Zippy Burger.  Their desserts and shakes looked great as well, but we didn't indulge.  Though the cafe has a few tables, we had to take our food to go because we had 5 in our group and there wasn't enough room - especially because Josh and I were the only ones eating HipCityVeg food. 
Sadly, Josh really didn't care for his burger.  In fact, he ended up pulling out the tempeh patty about half way through and tossing it completely.  He finished the bun and fixings, but needless to say was not pleased.  Though I didn't get to try the burger, I really enjoyed the tofu wrap.  Because we ate in the park, I never ended up adding the raita that came in a separate container - too much mess!  About half way through I gave Josh the rest of my sandwich to make up for his burger, but I definitely could have eaten the whole thing!  Too bad there isn't one of these in DC ... I would definitely go there all the time!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Book Club at Darbar

As I mentioned in my last post, my book club met last Thursday.  We planned to meet at Darbar in Baltimore to discuss Ender's Game.  Darbar is an Indian restaurant, which is usually a good bet for finding vegan food, but since I'd never been to the place before I decided to practice being a little more proactive about my dining experiences.  First I checked out their menu online, and was happy to see they had a vegetarian entree section.  There were a lot of choices, and some I was unfamiliar with, so I went a step further and e-mailed the restaurant ahead of my visit.
My e-mail and the wonderful and prompt response I got from the staff are below:
I will be dining at Darbar tomorrow evening, and I see that you have many delicious looking vegetarian options on your menu, but I was hoping to find out more about which of those items are vegan - meaning no butter, yogurt, dairy milk, etc. I hope that by planning ahead I can order quickly without too many questions for your servers. 
Thank you for your help,


Thanks for your email
We do have lots vegan items
Please ask the waiter when you arrive
Some of the dishes
Channa masala
Bhindi okra
Zeera Alu
Bharta eggplant
Dal tarka
and many more
(Punctuation - or lack thereof - from original response e-mail.)   

Armed with this list, I thought I would have no trouble finding a great vegan dish.  Unfortunately, the names of most of the items above didn't actually appear on the menu.  A few, like "Bharta Eggplant", were easy enough to figure out - on the menu, it was listed as "Naingan Ka Bhurta".  But others, like "Zeera Alu" were too difficult.  Since I didn't want to waste everyone's time Googling items from the list, I ordered one of the decipherable options - Bhindi Okra (aka Bhindi Ki Sabzi). 
This isn't the kind of dish I really expected to be wowed by ... and I really wasn't.  I wouldn't bother ordering it at Cafe Spice, where I know there are so many more wonderful options, so maybe I really messed up ordering it here.  But I suspect I would have been equally underwhelmed by anything else I ordered. 
Beyond the lackluster food, I was also really put off by the server, who acted quite rude when I requested my food "spicy".  Many people at Thai or Indian restaurants question a white person who asks for spicy food, as though we have no clue what we're doing, but when I assured her I would be fine she acted as though I was just clueless and would later throw the food in her face.  Note, the food that came out was definitely not too spicy.  In fact, I would have preferred it spicier, but I'll take what I can get. 
I guess my evening at Darbar just proves that if I'm looking for great Indian food in Baltimore, there are definitely much better options.  Other than Cafe Spice, there is: Akbar, Mughal Garden, or Indigma (which even has a vegan/gluten-free section on their menu!).  But then again, I suppose I wasn't really there for the food, I was there for the company ... And good company beats good food almost any day! 

Back on Track With Healthy Dinners

After ten days of overindulging in Scotland, both Josh and I were eager to get ourselves onto a healthier routine as soon as we got home.  We arrived into DC late Monday night, but fortunately I took Tuesday off from work so  that I could get myself back on US time, and take care of things around the house like unpacking more and getting groceries.  But of course the first order of business was to retrieve Panda from Josh's parents' house and cuddle a ton.  Even though she gave me the cold shoulder when I first picked her up, she warmed up eventually and spent most of the rest of the afternoon snuggling.  She definitely missed us while we were gone! 
I quickly made a dinner plan to get us through the rest of the week with a bunch of healthy meals (plus one meal out for me for Thursday evening's book club).  To start things off on Tuesday night, I made a healthy salad of romaine, grape tomatoes, pine nuts, cucumber, vegan Parmesan, and olive tapenade which served as the dressing.  I also toasted some sliced bread brushed with the water from a jar of diced garlic - instant garlic bread! 
I kept to the salad kick for dinner Wednesday night by mixing up a Southwestern-inspired salad of romaine, black beans, canned corn, grape tomatoes, avocado, leftover Southwestern salad topping that we didn't finish on the trip, and a "dressing" made from vegan sour cream, lime juice, and Chalula.  This one was so delicious I made it again last night for dinner too! 

For Friday night I made an oldy-but-goody, Thai tofu with broccoli and edamame.  This one is so simple, but healthy and delicious!  Just press tofu then pan fry it a few minutes on either side.  Toss in broccoli and frozen edamame for a few minutes at the end, and serve over bean threads that have been softened then tossed with red pepper flakes and sesame oil.  I could eat this meal almost every night!  

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Last of the Scotland Trip

And here it is ... finally!  The last post covering our food and other dining experiences in Scotland.  Whew!

Once we headed out of the city and into the Scottish countryside, I knew it would be a lot harder (if not basically impossible) to find vegan cuisine.  Since I didn't want to subsist on random side items or raw fruits and veggies for three days, I decided to officially cut my losses and accept vegetarian food as my baseline requirement.  This proved critical on our very first night, when we ate dinner in the hotel dining room at the Letterfinlay Lodge in Fort William.  We were a little frazzled from our first forray into wrong-side-of-the-road driving, and didn't feel up to finding some other restaurant, so we decided to take the easy (and high-priced) route of eating right in the hotel. 

I was actually impressed by the vegetarian offerings (there were several, at least), but needless to say the only vegan items were on the sides list.  I started the meal with tomato soup served with "warm, crusty" bread.  The soup was good, but I use the quotes on "warm, crusty" because the bread was neither. 

For my entree I ordered mushroom ravioli, which was also very good, if not particularly mushroomy.  The sprinkle of truffle oil on top helped mildly, but still not enough that I would have guessed it was mushroom ravioli if I hadn't known. 

The highlight of the meal was definitely dessert.  Still flying high from the sticky toffee pudding at the 13th Note, I ordered the toffee pudding again and was even more blown away.  Since this version wasn't vegan, it came with a side of vanilla ice cream and whipped cream.  It was so amazing - another plate licker!  (I didn't, but I wanted to.) 

After the sticker shock of dinner, the fact that the next morning's breakfast was included in our room rate was nice.  But it also meant that we both felt like we needed to earn our money back with a nice, big breakfast.  Amongst the traditional Scottish breakfast offerings, they again offered a vegetarian dish (but no vegan option).  I ordered an egg, tomatoes, mushrooms, vegetarian sausage, and a potato scone.  In case you couldn't figure it out, the scone is that fried wedge on the top right.  It's the reason I decided that the word "scone" is basically meaningless to the Scottish.  The sausage was also basically mashed potatoes shaped into a log and deep fried.  Not exactly the breakfast of champions ...

Once we were on the road we headed to see the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which has been used in the Harry Potter films as a location showing the route of the Hogwart's Express.  Since I'm such a huge HP fan, it was a necessary stop.  We even got to see the steam train going by! 

After seeing the train, we stopped into a little cafe on the side of the road called the Glen Rowan Coffee Shop.  Again, not a lot in the vegan department, but plenty for vegetarians to enjoy!  Josh and I each ordered the vegetable soup with actual crusty bread!  The soup wasn't as good as Letterfinlay's, but it was warm and satisfying.  And did I mention the crusty bread?!

We also ordered a sandwich to split, and combined several menu items to make our own creation - a cheese, tomato, onion, and pickle sandwich!  The pickle was actually more like relish, but it was quite tasty.  It came with  chips (crisps) and a great salad on the side - not just lettuce, tomato and carrot, but with corn, cucumber, and onion as well!

After getting into Skye the second night, we quickly headed up to Portree for dinner, and fortunately got in just under the wire at Cafe Arriba, which closed at 6 pm.  We'd seen online that this little cafe had lots of vegetarian and even vegan options, on request, but since we slid in about five minutes before closing I decided not to be obnoxious with my ordering and just take what I could get. 

Josh was feeling less dinnery than me, so he opted for a waffle topped with ice cream.  Meanwhile, I ordered the macaroni and cheese topped with leeks.  I'm not sure exaclty what was in there, but the cheese didn't feel as disgusting and heavy as it so often seems to.  Maybe they had blended cauliflower mixed in or something?  I've heard of people doing that before.  Either way, it was a delicious dinner.  We wolfed everything down and weren't even the last people to leave! 
The next day we spent in a whirlwind trying to get to all our planned stops on Skye, including three hikes, a tour at the Talisker Distillery, and one restaurant I had pre-scouted as a vegetarian-friendly destination, the Ellishadder Art Cafe.  Fortunately, it seemed like there was a flyer for the cafe at almost every little stopover we made, so even though it's a bit off the beaten path, it proved very easy to find.  The cafe itself is setup in what was once a normal home, with the living area set up as the diningroom and the food prepared in the home's kitchen.  In the dining area there is also a little display of locally-made crafts and other items for sale.  I loved the liquid soap in the bathroom so much I would have bought some if I could have brought it through security! 
The cafe's menu is small, but with lots of tasty-looking offerings.  Since the lunches we ordered (two tarts) are made to order and would take about twenty minutes, Josh and I opted to start with dessert and work backwards through the meal.  Since I loved the fruit scone from the Royal Botanic Garden so much, I decided to order the same thing again.  It was just as good this time.  Mental note: make vegan fruit scones at home soon! 
After dessert, our lunches came out.  The vegetable tart was very good, but the real highlight for me was the couscous salad on the side.  I wish I knew exactly what was in there, but it definitely had mint.  The tarts were also served with a carrot salad, potato salad, and a "normal" salad that was topped with edible flowers (all straight from their garden)!  I couldn't bring myself to eat the large orange flower on top, but I tried the others.  They were okay, but won't exactly become a staple in my diet. 
This cafe was so lovely, we were sorry it would most likely be our one and only visit ... ever.  But if we do ever happen to find ourselves on the Isle of Skye again someday ...
Sadly, that's the end of our Scotland story.  A little out of order, since after we left Skye we still had one more day each in Glasgow and Edinburgh, see previous posts here, here, and here
Who knows if we'll ever find ourselves in Scotland again?  The sad thing about international travel is that each trip is probably the first and last time you will ever see a place.  If you do ever make it back again, that's because you're missing some opportunity to see a brand new part of the world.  And who wants to repeat an old experience when you could be trying something exciting and new?  But then again, there are plenty of places in Scotland we didn't get to.  And if we ever decide to get to those other areas, there may just be an opportunity for some overlap with our old favorites too.  Until then ...

Monday, September 23, 2013

Glasgow Eats

Even though we would only be spending two nights of our trip in Glasgow (one on our way between Edinburgh and our drive West to see the countryside, and the second on our way back), I suspected that the urban setting would make it particularly easy to find amazing vegan food.  And fortunately the city lived up to my assumption.  After checking into our hotel mid-day on the fifth day of our trip, we headed out immediately to grab lunch at the 13th Note, a music venue / vegetarian and vegan restaurant and bar that was pretty dead when we headed in, but looked like it would be a great place for an evening out. 
A sign inside advertised a "Google-proof" trivia night, and the large, comfy booths looked like a great place to spend hours hanging out with friends.  The extensive and varied menu also made it seem like the kind of place you would be more than happy to come night after night. 
Josh and I ordered a variety of dishes so we could try a bunch of things.  The dish on the far left is vegan haggis, which I wouldn't have bothered to order again after having it at Henderson's Bistro, but I'm so glad Josh ordered it!  This dish was easily the highlight of the meal (until we got to dessert, that is).  I also ordered two appetizers - the Spanakopita and the Bombay potaotes.  Both were tasty, but not exactly out-of-this-world. 
But then came dessert ...  I know, I know.  Dessert at lunch?!?!  But we were on vacation!  And the sticky toffee pudding sounded so warm and comforting!  It was so delicious.  I actually had to restrain myself from just picking up the plate and licking off every last drop of toffee sauce. 
For dinner we headed to the second of three Glasgow places I'd scoped out on the Internet, Saramago Cafe Bar - a tapas cafe and music venue located in the Centre for Contemporary Arts. 
It was a little cold (in my opinion) for their outdoor seating area, but the inside bar and cafe was quite comfortable (except when the door to the patio was left open too long), and was decorated with posters from previous music events.  While looking at the posters we realized that the three vegan restaurants I had scoped for Glasgow were actually a trifecta of connected music venues (the third being the Flying Duck).  Apparently the music scene in Glasgow almost perfectly overlaps the vegan scene as well. 
Since it was a tapas menu, we naturally ordered tons of items so we could try a variety.  For small plates, we ordered the cashew and almond dukka served with bread and we tried to order the artichoke, red pepper, and porcini paella.  Unfortunately, the server must have misheard us, because we decided that what we ended up with was the artichoke hearts with lemon and roast garlic aioli.  Fortunately it was still quite tasty. 
For our entrees (which we split, of course), we ordered the sausage sandwich - tofu sausage (this was basically pressed, marinated tofu), tomato and chili jam, and mixed leaves on toasted bread - and the gnocchi arrabiata.  The gnocchi was served topped with fresh arugula, which was a nice touch and made the meal feel just a bit healthier (just a bit).
Both were delicious, but I would say the sandwich was the clear winner here.  It was so amazing - I definitely want to see if I can recreate something like it at home.  Now, where to find tomato and chili jam? 
The next day we rented a car and drove out west through the countryside and on to the Isle of Skye (details on those adventures to come). 
After three days exploring greater Scotland, we returned to Glasgow and returned the car (no accidents! - all credit to Josh, who did all the driving on the wrong side of the road).  After dropping off the car, we headed to the last restaurant on the vegan-approved list, the Flying Duck Club, to grab a late lunch / early dinner.  Unfortunately, the entrance was difficult to find and finally involved heading into an underground venue in which loud live music had already started and we didn't feel like it would offer the low-key meal we were in the market for after a long and nerve-wracking drive. 
We quickly bailed and headed back to Saramago for another delicious meal.  I insisted on a repeat of the sausage sandwich, plus we ordered our originally intended appetizer - the artichoke, red pepper, and porcini paella.  Amusingly enough, I think our accidental order from the previous meal (the artichoke hearts with lemon and roast garlic aioli) was actually a better choice, though this dish was fine as well.  I suppose it was a happy accident! 
Just like our last meal, we opted to order two small plates and two main dishes and share it all.  In addition to the paella, our second small plate was the plum tomato, basil, and balsamic on garlic and herb flatbread.  This dish proved to be the most underwhelming of everything we ordered at Saramago.  The bread ended up a soggy mess, and there was really nothing special about the toppings.  It was just the kind of thing I could have made myself at home, and probably more successfully. 
Our second entree, on the other hand, was delicious.  We ordered the linguini puttanesca, which came with sundried tomatoes, capers, olives, parsley, and a generous topping of arugula (just like the gnocchi).  It felt light and fresh, and the combination of flavors was amazing.  It more than made up for the flatbread that fell ... flat. 
One might think that because we dined twice at the same place over the course of just two days in Glasgow that it means the city doesn't have much to offer, but I am quite certain that isn't the case.  Really, it just tells you more about me and Josh, plus our state of mind when choosing a place.  Particularly on our second day, we were tired, not feeling particularly adventurous, and just wanted something easy that we knew we would enjoy.  If you combine that with some feelings of guilt I had about my non-vegan eating throughout the trip, and I just wanted to find a place where I knew I could get a good vegan meal without any hassle.  Ultimately, Saramago just fit all our needs, which left us more than happy to visit it twice. 
While Glasgow may not be at the top of many people's tourist destinations (I will admit, there isn't as much in the way of tourist destinations as Edinburgh had to offer), it is clearly a very vibrant, and happening city that would be a wonderful place for a vegan to live.  And if you find yourself there (even if only on a stopover to more magnificent destinations), it is certainly a fantastic place for a vegan to visit as well. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Spontaneous Edinburgh Proves to be Less Than Vegan

While my last post was about how good I was at researching vegan food in Edinburgh before our trip, my research could not account for every moment of the day.  There were more than a few times when we were out and about that I was cold, hungry, or just wanted to be part of the experience.   In those instances my vegan ideals went most of the way out the window.  
Like the pint of milk provided by the owner of the hotel to go with the complimentary cereal and fruit for breakfast.  Should we let the milk go bad or thank him for the free breakfast?  You guessed it ... we ate the cereal.  
I definitely didn't document every scrap of food I ate during the trip, but here are a few of those times in Edinburgh where the experience took over ...

Unfortunately, my vegan designs went out the window right from the start, when I forgot to sign up for a vegan meal far in advance on our British Airways flight.  Fortunately, one of the two standard options was vegetarian at least - tomato pasta with cheese.  And yes, that's a cheesecake sitting there.  And yes ... I did eat it.  My first cheesecake in nine months?  Yeah, it was good. 

In fact desserts and sweets proved to be my general downfall when it came to staying the vegan course on this trip.  While walking around Edinburgh, we stopped at a convenience store for a little sustenance, which is where I spotted this peanut butter KitKat.  Unusual flavored KitKats have always been a fascination of mine, and I couldn't help but pick it up to split with Josh while we walked.  It was quite good. 

The other major source of trouble was when we stopped for a meal at a place that I hadn't pre-planned before our arrival.  Our lunch at a Debenhams Cafe, for instance, was lovely with its views of the water, but didn't have any vegan options beyond a side of fries (chips). 

Rather than go hungry, Josh and I split a vegetarian mushroom and cheese pie with chips on the side.  It wasn't even that great, but hey, it was food! 

There were also those instances when I made half-hearted attempts to be vegan, but which wouldn't really amount to much if anyone's keeping score.  For instance ... Since I'm a huge Harry Potter fan, of course I wanted to stop at the Elephant House Cafe - the place where JK herself wrote the first HP book. 

There was a huge line, but we were able to grab a table where we enjoyed hot chocolate and dessert.  I ordered my hot chocolate with soy milk, but the barista was kind enough to let me know the chocolate mix still had milk powder.  Strike 1.  No matter, I said ... my carrot cake wasn't vegan either.  Strike 2.

And remember when I left Night 3 dinner out of my last post?  That's because we found ourselves tired and with sore feet, but luckily right in front of a little pub.  Our stop for a couple of beers quickly turned into dinner once we saw a few plates of burgers and chips (fries, again) go by. 

They actually had three vegetarian burgers on the menu, but none of them were vegan.  I ordered myself the portabella mushroom burger and had it topped with the spicy fixings from another offering - including jalapenos, chipotle mayo, and pepperjack cheese.  I could definitely have taken steps to make a more vegan choice (like hold the mayo and cheese), but without comforting vegan substitutes available I really didn't want to. 

I wanted my big greasy burger with fries and a beer.  And maybe I was letting the vacation give me the excuse I've been wanting a lot of the time in "regular" life, but which I won't let myself indulge. 

I definitely took more than a few more opportunities on the trip to eat foods I've been craving but couldn't have over the past few months.  Like this donut from Krispy Kreme, which was conveniently located right across from the hotel we stayed in on our final night in Edinburgh before flying out.  They were having a caramel-themed flavor special, so this was the caramel crunch.  I've been thinking about donuts more in the past few months than I have in my entire life, and this my "oh well, it's vacation!" mantra had thoroughly sunk in by the last day. 

I tried my best to savor it, knowing it would be quite a while before I came across a vegan donut ... or found myself on another vacation and standing in a Krispy Kreme. 

The other big excuse I used on the trip, of course, was the desire to experience Scottish culture.  It was an excuse to eat the complementary shortbread cookies at the hotel (plus I love shortbread ... vegan shortbread post coming soon!).  And it was a great excuse to eat this fruit scone with jam and clotted cream at the Royal Botanic Gardens when we took shelter in the cafe to escape the downpour.  And the hot chocolate was a great way to stave off the cold. 

What was my excuse for three chocolate truffles at Jenner's?  Well, after looking around at their wares for an hour without buying something, and still needing to fill a bit more time, we just had to get something from the cafe.  And whiskey flavored truffles are as Scottish as truffles get (short of haggis truffles, I suppose ... but no one's rushing out to make those). 

Waiting at the airport in Edinburgh we had time to fill and no guarantee our (now properly requested) special meals would actually make it onto our flight - these things so often slipping through the cracks, so naturally we stopped for a quick bite.  I suppose I could have planned yet further and packed up something from the city before arriving at the airport, but of course I didn't.  And while I could have had a fruit cup or some other poor man's substitute for food that I could find at the terminal, yet again I through vegan caution to the wind. 

A chocolate caramel shortbread bar and mushroom and cheese panini?  Why yes, thank you.  They look delicious.  And they were. 

One of the things I learned on this trip?  I'm certainly not lactose intolerant yet.  I tested my digestive system enough times to know that for sure.  But did I also learn I'm not a good vegan?  That I'm not really vegan at all?  Maybe.  But I think I tried a lot harder than a non-vegan would.  I suppose I'm a semi-vegan.  And that's not necessarily a bad thing. 

Every day, every bite, we have a new opportunity to decide what we put in our mouths and what impact we will have on the world through the food choices we make.  I've been back in the US now for almost two full days.  And no animals were harmed in the making of the past two days of my life.  And any food decisions I made in the past couple of weeks, just like those I made over the past couple of years, do not need to affect the decisions I make tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that ...