So Much Foods!

My duct taped wagon seems to be holding, which proves that duct tape can fix anything! Even metaphorical duct tape and a metaphorical wagon.

I’ve done a crazy amount of cooking and even baking over the weekend, mostly to avoid having to do so during the week while I’m working and so that I have food to eat.

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This was dinner on Sunday. Spinach and mushroom pot pie with phyllo/filo dough to top it. This was super delicious and even though the boyfriend didn’t touch it (he hates mushrooms), there are no leftovers because OM NOM NOM!

Sidenote: I posted this picture in the Facebook group What FAT Vegans Eat and people are apparently really adamant about their particular spelling of phyllo or filo.

Anyways, I felt like baking yesterday, so I made my first attempt at vegan cookies. I made chocolate chip and double chocolate chunk ones. The texture is more cake-like, but the taste is fantastic!

Sidenote: Egg-free cookie dough is a guilt-free indulgence on more than one level! Also, licking the beaters is still the best part!

Also, made bread yesterday, as you can see it cooling next to the cookies. That’s less interesting. I bake bread every week now that I have a bread machine.

Lastly, for the pièce de résistance: MAC N CHEEZE!!! Also chick’n nuggets which weren’t great, but who cares. Mac n cheeze!

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Of course it’s not real cheese. It was actually a sauce made with potatoes, carrots, onion, garlic, cashews, and a few spices all thrown into a blender along with some water and oil. I even found milk-free bread crumbs to make it look all authentic and stuff! Sure, it doesn’t taste like cheese, but it is freaking yummy! I think next time I make it, I’m going to add some nutritional yeast as well.

The chick’n nuggets (TVP, chickpea flour, flax eggs) were a little disappointing. I didn’t add enough seasonings so they didn’t taste like much. Plus, the texture was too goopy on the inside for chicken nuggets. Oh well! The mac n cheeze more than made up for it!

Another challenge looms, however. Friday is my birthday. It’s supposed to thunderstorm. Otherwise, I’d be posting my excitement for my plans to visit Phipps Conservatory with the boyfriend and then grab dinner at a trendy vegan place on the south side of Pittsburgh called “The Zenith.”

However, if the weather forecast remains the same, I can’t very well go to an outdoor garden. Those plans will happen eventually, but maybe not on my birthday itself like I’d hoped. The challenge, however, is for the day after my birthday.

I’m headed back up to New Castle to hang with some friends and have a barbecue-picnic thing. I froze most of my vegan cookies to bring with me so I’ll at least have sweet-tooth snacking satisfaction. Also, they were cool enough to acquire some form of vegan burger product for me to content myself with and even went so far as to ask about vegan buns to boot.

But the challenge is that they are going to be enjoying chicken wings and jello shots. Here’s hoping that duct tape keeps holding strong!

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The Wagon

I want to talk a little bit today about the wagon. And by that, I mean veganism. Brace yourselves; this one will probably be a lengthy one.

My cousin got married yesterday. Despite having to work my full shift in order to get eight hours of free money for Memorial Day tomorrow, I was able to make it up to my hometown for the reception.

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Doesn’t she look gorgeous? The reception hall was beautiful and everyone was occupied stuffing their faces when I got there.

This reception was incredibly non-vegan, by way the, complete with at least three tables full of cookies (because that’s how we celebrate weddings in western PA–with literally enough cookies to kill you), as well as chicken, meatballs, Italian sausage, butter-drenched potatoes, butter-drenched green beans, and penne covered in parmesan cheese.

There was nothing I could eat, but I left as soon as my shift had ended and I was hungry. So, I ate. I had some potatoes (and told myself it might be margarine) and some beans (and told myself it also might be margarine) and I dug under the layer of parmesan on the penne and had some of that too. Also, some cookies, but there was no lie I could tell myself that would convince me that there weren’t eggs and butter in them.

Again, this is a western Pennsylvanian wedding, and you eat cookies. It’s what you do. People–particularly the people who spent a small fortune and about 84 hours of their lives making all these cookies–get offended if you don’t.

That’s not why I ate them though. I ate cookies because I wanted to. I kept it vegetarian though, which was not a total relapse, I suppose.

It wasn’t until some hours later that the wheels came off the wagon.

After leaving the reception, the boyfriend and I went to hang out with some other friends in town and eventually everybody got hungry. I’m reasonably sure that there are no vegan-friendly places in the dank hole in the world that is New Castle, Pennsylvania, so after some discussion wherein everybody tried to accommodate me and felt bad because my only option literally everywhere was some form of fried potato product, we eventually decided to go to a Chinese buffet we lovingly refer to as China B.

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What vegan options does China B offer? White rice and fried potato wedges. What did I eat at China B?

A couple chicken wings, some pork on a stick, crab rangoon, rice noodles with veggies and egg, mussels with cheese, some sushi with veggies and cream cheese, and I did actually have some fried potato wedges as well.

Did you hear that? It was the sound of the wagon bursting into flames.

We have a tendency, in these days of Instagram and Facebook, to only show off our good side. You see it all the time. People post selfies of their perfectly beach-blown hair while they’re on vacation, and of their newly planted herb garden. They don’t post pictures of five days worth of dirty dishes piled in their kitchen sink and they don’t post selfies of when they’ve spent two straight days on the couch wearing the same pajamas with their greasy, unwashed hair pulled up.

It’s so easy now to only show the world the moments you want them to see, and I could easily adopt that tendency with this blog as well. I’m certainly guilty of it on Facebook, but that’s not what this blog is for. That’s expressly why I choose “A Carnivore Experimenting with Veganism” as my subtitle. I have every intention of talking about it when I screw it up.

I do actually feel guilty, and none of it (with the sole exception being the mussels with cheese) was as good as I’d hoped. Here’s the thing though: The guilt comes from feeling like I cheated on a diet I was on and not so much from the fact that several animals had to be mistreated and killed for me to stuff my face yesterday. I’m still processing the implications of that, to be honest.

In the meantime though, just because the wagon fell apart doesn’t mean I can’t slap some duct tape on it and continue meandering down the road.

That’s what I’m going to do. I told myself I was going to write my blog confession first, as punishment, before I was allowed to eat breakfast. Now, I’m going to head downstairs and make some vegan blueberry waffles to enjoy with some vegan sausage.

 

Let’s Not Meat, ‘kay?

My meat craving has subsided at long last. I managed to stay strong and not touch the remains of the turkey club in the fridge and the piece of steak the boyfriend brought home Monday and didn’t eat until today. I feel super accomplished.

Really though, it’d be great if I could get to the point where meat grosses me out. I don’t think that’ll ever happen though, if I’m being honest here. It’s just too tasty.

I joined a Facebook group recently called “What F.A.T. Vegans Eat” which is fantastic. It’s literally just a bunch of vegans posting pictures of whatever vegan delights they happen to be enjoying at the time. Not only does it make me feel like veganism is this really awesome club I’ve joined, it’s also given me some really good recipes and food ideas!

I’m in the middle of another test of willpower as I write this though. I just finished eating the last of the leftover TVP Sloppy Joe mix over rice with broccoli. It was tasty, but I’ve eaten it for dinner for the last three days and I’m REAL tired of it.

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That’s not the test though. The test is that there was only enough for one more dish of this stuff, so rather than travel forth to acquire food for himself, the boyfriend made and is currently in the process of eating a pepperoni and cheese pizza.

Oh my gosh, the smell of it is divine.

I’m actually really full, plus everything I’ve eaten today has made me feel a little sick to my stomach, so I’m not going to cave. But why does it have to smell so good? I told him previously that he wasn’t allowed to make the frozen pizzas until I gave the go ahead because I wasn’t sure my willpower was up to it.

Pizza may not be my favorite food ever, but it’s still freaking pizza.

He got the go ahead tonight though. Hopefully he eats the whole thing. He won’t. I know he won’t, but a girl can dream, right?

Muffins N’At

If you’re not from Pittsburgh, the title might require a little explanation. N’at is Pittsburghese which literally means “and that” but is kind of substituted for “et cetera.” (I’m way too excited about the fact that Pittsburghese has made it into Urban Dictionary.)

Anyways, after tomorrow I will have officially been a vegan for a whole month now. It’s kind of funny actually. This whole vegan thing, and the blog that went with it, started as an impulse and I fully expected to quit/fail. That’s why I used the word “indefinite” in my very first post.

Now, here we are a month in, and I’m kind of liking it. In the past month, while I have pined rather dejectedly for cheese and have whined about it multiple times, I’ve not actually craved meat at all.

Until yesterday. And I very nearly ate some too.

Let’s back up for a moment, though. Yesterday was not a great day. It started with a hangover and an early morning text message from the head of my department, asking me if I wouldn’t mind sacrificing my day off and hopping online to cover for someone who had to leave.

The answer was no, that I most certainly would mind, but the response was “Yeah, I can do that.” I love me some overtime, regardless of the circumstances.

Getting back to that hangover, my go-to cure for a night of debaucherous binge drinking is bacon and eggs. My kitchen currently contains neither bacon nor eggs, and even if it did, owing to the need to work, I wouldn’t have had the time to indulge anyways. I was aware that I wanted to though, and it was rough.

My day never really improved from there, and I have this horrible tendency to try to eat my feelings away. Trouble is, it’s really hard to eat your feelings away with quinoa and tofu. This is where cheeseburgers and chicken wings come in.

I don’t have either of those either though. However, the boyfriend brought back the leftovers of his turkey club sandwich and I did see that in my refrigerator. I even took the container out and looked at it. At that point, I very nearly said, “screw it!” and ate some.

I didn’t, though. If I’m going to fall off the wagon, it’s not going to be a turkey club sandwich from Kings that does it.

Instead, I ate some vegan nachos (with TVP) that didn’t quite hit the spot and made muffins out of some bananas that were a little past their prime.

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I’ve never been much of a baker, but they were actually pretty yummy and my gloomy mood improved a little bit.

Today, I’m still craving meat, and the boyfriend just left a little bit ago to go to Longhorn Steakhouse with his mom and brother. Hopefully there are no leftovers for him to bring home. I’m in a better mood though, so I think I can withstand the temptation even if there are.

Wish me luck!

Getting Cheesy!

Firstly, seitan is still gross. I still haven’t tried the breakfast sausage, but I may do that in the morning. The leftover simmered seitan was every bit as icky as the fresh-from-the-crockpot simmered seitan. (Sorry to lovers of all things wheat gluten.)

Secondly, I made some homemade chocolate and also some vegan sloppy Joes today.

Both were yummy, but that’s not what I want to talk about this evening. I want to talk about success. And about cheese. I want to talk about cheesy success!

This morning for breakfast, I had some tofu scramble, because I just can’t seem to get enough of that stuff. But, more importantly, I also had a hashbrown.

What does that have to do with cheese, you ask? I’m getting to it. Patience, precious!

See, I had some red skin potatoes that were starting to get soft, so I knew I needed to do something with them. Truth be told, I’ve known that for days, but it’s been nearly 90 degrees all week and I don’t have central air, so I haven’t done much cooking. This morning though, I faithfully peeled those potatoes, grated them, soaked them in water to remove the starch, and then mixed in a little flour and vegan mozzarella, and then threw it all in a skillet.

A hashbrown was born!

OK, so you all know how I usually feel about vegan cheese. This was really good though! Apparently I do enjoy the taste of crispy vegan mozzarella. I was so surprised by this, I almost didn’t know what to do with myself. Other than eat my hashbrown, that is. With more delight even than I displayed with the tofu!

Not only was this cheese attempt a success, but I found a suitable replacement for the feta cheese in my couscous salad.

Tofu!

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I’ve mentioned previously that feta cheese is the highlight of this particular form of couscous. However, if you dice up your tofu and marinate it in lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and garlic, it has a similar taste to feta.

Now, I’ll readily admit that it doesn’t have the creamy, tangy deliciousness that feta has, but the texture is pretty close and the rest of the ingredients of this dish are enough to make you forget all about feta.

In addition to the cooked couscous itself (and the marinated tofu of course), I added, cucumber, grape tomatoes, scallions, roasted red peppers, green olives, lemon juice, and olive oil.

It’s so good and I’m so happy I have leftovers to last for a couple of days.

(I really should make a recipes page. I just need to find the time. And, you know, impetus.)

Either way, NOM NOM NOM!

TVP and Seitan Attempt Number Three

Working from home might be the best decision I’ve made in the entirety of my professional life. One of the many perks is that I can still prepare food while I’m at work and I don’t have to rely on eating out and buying snacks to get through the day. Also, since I work until 10 PM, while at home, I can eat dinner at a more reasonable hour.

Today, I experimented with a couple of vegan meat replacers.

The first was TVP. It sounds like plumbing, doesn’t it? Or, if you’re a gamer nerd like me, it may sound like an arena-style player versus player match. Fortunately, it’s neither of those. It’s textured vegetable protein, or as I described it to the boyfriend, “dehydrated soy stuff.”

I rehydrated some of the chunky version in hot vegetable broth, squeezed it out a bit when it was ready, and then made a chicken salad-esque lunch by mixing the pieces with some vegan mayonnaise and chopped scallions, and then throwing it between two slices of homemade bread.

Sidenote: I love my bread machine.

I was a little iffy about it. In the bag, it looks a lot like unseasoned croutons and I didn’t know what to expect with the flavor, but it was quite yummy! It even had a similar texture to actual chicken salad (without the greasy film that cold chicken often gets).

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I wish I could say I had the same success with the seitan, but I at least think it came out the way it was supposed to. I used a recipe I found in one of my vegan cookbooks for “Better than Pot Roast Seitan” which called for seasoning the wheat gluten with soy sauce, ketchup, onion powder, salt, pepper, and thyme, and then cooking it on low in the crockpot for eight hours with some veggies and vegetable broth.

Sounds promising, but I think I just don’t like homemade seitan. This attempt tasted much like the previous two attempts, but this time I got the texture right. Either it needs more seasoning or it’s just always going to taste a little bit like wheat gluten no matter what. I don’t know the answer to that, and I’ve never been able to find seitan at the store to compare.

I have, however, tried seitan jerky, and it definitely has that wheaty, gluteny taste, and I just don’t like it.

Now, as I understand it, simmered seitan usually is best the next day, so while I dutifully ate some this evening, I’ll try the leftovers tomorrow and see if that makes a difference. If not, I have one more seitan recipe to try, before I give up on it. Steamed breakfast sausage seitan.

And if that doesn’t work, I still have tofu and TVP.

Bringing Families Together

I don’t know about everyone else, but my family always comes together over food. The dinner table is where we meet, where we share secrets and stories, and where we sometimes have vicious arguments, usually with our mouths full and a piece of bread in one hand. We might not agree on everything (or anything for that matter), but we can still share a table and some supper.

My mom’s side of the family is Italian, so every time I imagine a family gathering, it’s always around a big bowl of pasta and homemade sauce. I’m probably reminiscing now because I just heated up some leftovers of my own homemade sauce (complete with homemade garlic bread) and hastily ate it from my home office.

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Perfectly vegan and perfectly delicious!

Sidenote: Except for the faux parmesan cheese. It makes the dish look “right,” but it’s pretty gross. This cheese thing is still finding subtle ways to disappointment.

Up until Sunday, very few people outside of the blogging world knew I decided to go vegan. But, in remembrance of my mom, I thought I should share my last post on Facebook, and the moment I did, I steeled myself for the backlash.

“You didn’t really become a vegan, did you?”

“But you love meat!”

“I can’t believe it!”

“You’ll change your mind, I know it.”

These are all things I expected to hear. I expected outrage, disappointment, and maybe a little bit of scorn. A funny thing happened though. Everybody (with the exception of one relative who heard a couple of weeks ago through a friend) was really supportive, and instead of hurling accusations and judgments, they asked questions.

My birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks, and traditionally, a couple of really awesome people offer to cook something for me. (I’m a foodie–can you tell?)  Now that I’m officially “out” as a vegan, I thought that would go by the wayside.

Another funny thing happened: They still want to, and they’re totally willing to make it vegan. I have no idea what these vegan dishes are going to entail but I’m super excited to find out! (And also really touched, as well.)

On a semi-related note, I want to talk a little bit about tofu.

The first time I tried tofu was last October (in my pre-Donald Trump vegetarianism). My experience with tofu up until that day was exactly zero, and I totally didn’t expect a spongy white mass of vaguely plant-scented goop stored in water. I couldn’t even touch it without getting squeamish.

Needless to say, I didn’t like it. At. All.

Fast forward to yesterday morning. Along with some store-bought, horrendously expensive vegan sausage, I tried tofu scramble for breakfast with scallions and garlic (seasoned with cumin, paprika, turmeric, parsley, and nutritional yeast), and then after it was done cooking, I tossed on some hot sauce and fresh pico de gallo.

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I guess now you could say I’m a fan. Who needs scrambled eggs?