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!

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?

Doubts and Assurances.

Brace yourselves; it’s gonna be a long one! It’s been a rough and tumble couple of vegan days over here.

Let’s start with Friday. Friday was a really good day, actually. It was my last day of having to get up early and go into the office, and the bank (I work for a bank, by the way) was cool enough to buy us all lunch. Now, I was super scared that “lunch” was going to mean pizza that I could stare forlornly at but not eat, but I was wrong.

Sidenote: I had decided early on not to mention my new dietary preferences because I didn’t want everyone to have to accommodate me.

What they ended up doing was letting us order whatever we wanted at Noodles & Company so I got Japanese Pan Noodles with Seasoned Tofu.

Another sidenote: I’m beginning to like tofu. I was certain I could never get past the texture. Sometimes it’s good to be wrong!

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There were a few good natured jokes made about the fact that someone was eating tofu, but it was tasty. Their loss! Friday continued being good even after that because we all got an extended lunch which I used to take a walk around the city. I even lucked out and the sun was out the whole time!

I actually love Pittsburgh, even though I still prefer to work from home. Nothing beats listening to music of your choice while you work, while wearing yoga pants and a hoodie.  I do miss being able to take scenic walks like this on my lunch break. It’s a trade off.

After work, I sat in rush hour traffic for the last time (for awhile anyways) and then came home and made vegan poutine. I was a little scarred of what vegan gravy would be like, but it was actually really good.

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Sidenote Again: Vegan cheese is still gross. Next time I’m going to leave the cheese out. More on that later.

Moving on to Saturday, I followed through on my plan to drag my boyfriend to a vegan restaurant, so after I finished working my overtime shift, we headed out to Loving Hut for their Saturday vegan buffet.

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This food made me love being a vegan. I literally don’t have enough words for how freaking delicious all of it was. (The boyfriend didn’t like much of it, but even he went back for seconds on the seitan pepper steak.)

Now, let’s talk about Sunday. Sunday was not a good day to be a vegan.

Having finally sampled seitan and discovering how versatile and delicious it can be, I decided to try making it. Twice, even.

I failed horribly both times. My first attempt was simmered seitan from one of the cook books I bought. It turned into inedible meat jelly. I think I didn’t knead it enough. The second time, I tried baking it from a recipe I found online. This time, the texture was closer to correct, but it wasn’t good at all.

Along with that seitan experiment, I attempted a version of vegan mac and cheese. It was also inedibly bad. Remember what I said about how I hate to waste food? Both seitan attempts and the vegan mac and cheese went straight in the garbage. (Also, an attempt at a vegan “cheezee” sauce from earlier in the day went straight in the garbage as well.)

Disclaimer: I have cooked long enough to know that not all recipes are winners. I would even go one further and say that sometimes you try something new and it fails so horribly that it ruins you for that particular food item for awhile.

I know seitan can be yummy. I just might not have that skill set and that makes me a little sad. The cheese thing is killing me though. I love cheese. I miss cheese. And I have yet to try a vegan alternative or substitute or creative hybrid that is not terrible.

I’ll be perfectly honest here. I sulked most of the night after these failed cooking attempts and wondered why I even thought I could do this vegan thing. I wanted to quit. I was close to quitting.

My boyfriend went to Hardee’s and came back with a bacon cheeseburger and a chicken sandwich and it just smelled so good. I watched him eat them while I forlornly nibbled the fries I asked him to get me, and  I was just so close to jumping in the car and coming back with a burger and chicken sandwich of my own.

I didn’t though. I told myself it wasn’t the first time I’d made a bad recipe and that there were other things I had yet to try.

This morning I knew I needed a good breakfast to get my head back in the game. Something vegan and tasty that would make me feel better. So I made a waffle with a banana in place of the egg, used peanut butter as my topping, and I decided to try some of the “Gimme Lean” (Haha!) vegan breakfast sausage I dubiously bought a week ago.

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I think it’s safe to say that I’m back in the saddle again. The sausage was better than I expected and at least I know I can buy seitan products even if I never acquire the skill to make it. I still don’t know what I’m going to do about the cheese thing, but at least I no longer feel hopeless about it.

Kicking the Dairy-ère

I woke up this morning ready to eat a plant based diet. First though, I fed my cats their non-vegan breakfast, for which I’m certain they were grateful, and then I put the coffee on. Breakfast is a thing that has to be eased into for me.

While I waited for the coffee to brew, I contemplated vegan breakfast options. I think a lot of non-vegans are under the assumption that a plant based diet means eating nothing but salad and tofu. (Confession: I once did.) I would even go so far as to say that breakfast is a meal you often don’t think about until you actually have to.

What I mean by that is think of some typical breakfast foods and then ask yourself whether they contain animal products:

  • Cheese omelette? Yup.
  • Cereal with organic, skim milk? Mhm.
  • Yogurt with fruit and granola? Still yep.
  • Bagel with cream cheese. Yeppers.
  • Buttered toast. Yessir.
  • Bacon and eggs. Heck yeah.

Clearly this is something that requires some amount of forethought. Luckily, I came prepared.

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Holy cow! (Bad pun intended.) It’s non-dairy dairy products! I tried a little bit of all of these this morning, just so I knew what I was getting myself into.

By the way, vegans, your cheese feels gross. It tastes okay, but it feels gross. If you just handed me a sliver or two, didn’t tell me what it was, and told me to eat it, I would decline. I would say, “I don’t know what this is but it feels like something I should never put in my mouth.”

Now, to the non-vegans reading, if you ever want to attempt something like this, don’t go into it expecting these imitation products to taste like the real thing. They certainly do not. And, hey, that’s okay. Imitation strawberry doesn’t taste like the real thing either, but it still has its merits. For that matter, imitation watermelon is better than the real thing.

Side note: I don’t like watermelon. Feel free to disagree as you take a bite of that pink hunk of flavorless, wet sand. I won’t judge; we can still be friends.

In the end, after I drank my coffee with almond creamer (not better than the real thing but perfectly fine anyways), I decided to have a bowl of Crispix cereal, with coconut/almond milk and some raspberries.

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Yum.