Thirty-One Years Alive

My birthday was Friday, so I’m officially “in my thirties” now. No more of the “I just turned 30” crap. (Boo.)

Instead of relaxing, I spent my birthday getting sunburnt by pulling weeds and planting flowers, and I have to say: I definitely underestimated my flower gardens in a big way. After three hours of blood, sweat, and tears, I still didn’t get all the flowers in the ground. I may even have to admit defeat and make a couple of DIY baskets and just put mulch down because I had no idea there were going to be so many freaking rocks in the ground.

I’d post a picture so you could see all the pretty petunias in my back yard now, but owing to some lawnmower trouble, the boyfriend didn’t get the backyard mowed.

Sidenote: By “lawnmower trouble” I mean that we don’t have one, so you can see the trouble. We do have an electric weedwacker, but we didn’t acquire a long enough extension cord before it started raining.

After earning sunburn and almost heat stroke, we ventured forth in part to get an extension cord and also to get dinner. We went to a place in Cranberry Township called Double Wide Grill. The ambience of said place is a little horrifying because if you hadn’t guessed based on the name, they’re going for “Hick Chiq” which is just weird. I guess it’s what the yuppy rich folks of Cranberry Township call “slummin’ it.”

But the food. Oh my goodness the food.

First of all, while I had eaten there before back in my om-nom-nomivore days, I didn’t actually pay any attention to the vegan and vegetarian options this place offers.

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That’s right, folks. Two pages of deliciousness. I’m so used to having to make due with a black bean burger or, failing that, some form of potato when we eat out that I literally couldn’t contain my excitement.

We started with some honey garlic seitan “wings”:

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There were more than this on the plate, I promise, but I was too excited about it to remember to take a picture before we ate half of them.

Sidenote: I know honey isn’t vegan, but I’ve decided that I’m going to ignore that rule. The reason is that I can’t stomach the hypocrisy of “but the bees!” and then pointedly and deliberately murder any stink bugs I find in my house.

After we shared that appetizer (which the boyfriend said was weird but fine), then came the main course:

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Vegan Philly Cheesesteak with fries!

Now, I don’t know in what world a cheesesteak is swimming in barbecue sauce, but I also don’t really care. That bun was overflowing with seitan steak, vegan cheese sauce, peppers, and onions, and I ate every single scrap of it, plus all the fries.

That makes twice in one day that I had seitan so I now I know it can be freaking yummy. There will be further seitan experiments in my kitchen now.

Moving on to Saturday, after I put in six hours of overtime in the home office, I headed up north to my home town for a cookout with some friends and family. I took my vegan cookies, and while I knew that there would be veggie burgers for me to eat (while everyone else ate fifty dead chickens worth of wings), I decided I wanted to be able to eat more than just a burger, so I made some vegan potato salad and brought that with me. Not only that but one of my friends made vegan stuffed mushrooms as well.

The end result was that while the veggie burgers weren’t very good (but the potato salad and the mushrooms were), there was enough food for me to resist the tantalizing smell of fried chicken wings.

Not going to lie; I was proud of myself. Also, the vegan cookies were a hit. So were my friend’s mushrooms, for that matter. Everybody had a good time and went home with a full belly.

Then came Sunday. What? Your birthday celebrations don’t span three straight days? You’re doing it wrong, I tell you!

On Sunday, my aunt, who traditionally cooks me a birthday dinner every year because she’s awesome like that, made me a vegan dinner, which makes her even more awesome.

We started out with falafel and vegan tzatziki sauce (which, by the way, is literally awesome sauce).

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Now, I’ve had falafel before and I’ve never been super impressed with it. This, however, this is the stuff dreams are made of. Up until that point, it was the best thing I’d eaten since that mushroom pot pie in my previous post.

Next came the main course, somen noodles with veggies and a very spicy peanut sauce.

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Fun fact: This one was actually hers because my over-eager self had already dug into mine and completely forgot to take a picture. I’d been planning on making this myself but she beat me to it. Plus, she sent me home with leftovers to boot!

Last, but certainly not least was dessert: Dark chocolate sorbet.

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Take a moment and just look at that. I’ll wait.

I’m serious. It deserves a moment of appreciation.

Are you drooling yet? I am.

If you had asked me after the falafel if there was any possible way that whatever dessert was forthcoming could possibly compete with the falafel as my favorite dish of the meal, I’d have said heck no. I’m not really a sweet-loving kind of gal and while I certainly do like me some chocolate, I would never call myself a chocoholic.

This, though–this sorbet, this godly concoction of cocoa and Kalua and cinnamon and whatever else, this was literally divine. Like, if Heaven could be said to have a taste, it would taste like this.

It was so delicious that I don’t even have a witty or eloquent way to wrap up this blog post because I’m so lost in the memory of that literal scoop of heaven.

Just look at that picture some more and dream.

Confessions and Sudden Outbursts

I have a confession to make: When I (impulsively) decided to give veganism a go, I thought it would be too hard. I thought plant-based alternatives would be gross, that I would feel hungry all the time, and that my energy levels would plummet from what I was certain was going to be unbalanced nutrition.

I could not have been more mistaken.

I mean, yeah, vegan cream cheese, on its own, tastes like what I imagine a nightmare would taste like, and tofu–even well-pressed tofu–has the consistency of slightly congealed phlegm. But vegan cream cheese can be used to make some succulent vegan sugar cookies, and tofu, scrambled and marinated with some roasted poblano peppers and chipotles in adobo, makes a pretty smoking burrito.

It’s all about creativity and a willingness to experiment with new ingredients, and I love it. I made vegan ranch dressing today so I could eat my first salad since becoming a vegan, and it was so delicious I actually yelled “OH MY GOSH THAT WAS SO GOOD!” after I finished eating it, startling all three cats and my boyfriend.

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Those are my cats. None of them are vegans, although the calico’s favorite people foods to guilt-trip me into sharing are cereal, popcorn, and lettuce.

What do cats have to do with veganism? Nothing at all. But they’re super cute, aren’t they?

Anyways, I think I’m kinda sold on this whole vegan thing, and I’m going to drag my meat-and-potatoes boyfriend (who tried the ranch and said it was “not terrible”) to a vegan restaurant this weekend. At least one of us is very excited about it!

Milestone!

Vegan Week One Complete!

This calls for a celebration! More on that in a moment though. You know what else calls for a celebration? I passed a vegan test I gave myself.

Remember a couple posts ago when I said that the real test was going to be the first time I ate out?  Well, I did, and I’m still a vegan. While my boyfriend ordered himself something involving meat and dairy which looked and smelled delicious, I had a black bean burger with mustard and no cheese, and a healthy pile of French fries. To go with it, I had two beers–Rhinegeist Rosé Cider and a New Belgium IPA called Citradelic.

Side note: I’m super happy that there are vegan friendly breweries!

Anyways, back to the celebration! Looky what I found at Market District today!

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Now, I’m not going to lie. I was a little scurred of vegan ice cream. My experience thus far with vegan dairy replacements have been less than satisfying. The best I could say about any of them is that they’ve been more or less tolerable kind of, so it was with much trepidation that I opened the lid and scooped a little bit out.

OH MY GOSH IT’S FREAKING DELICIOUS!

Vegans: You do ice cream really, really well. I have not said this about any vegan product I have had thus far, but it actually is every bit as good as the “real” thing. No joke. It is also every bit as unhealthy, but you know what? If it weren’t, it definitely wouldn’t taste as good. Ice cream is not a health food.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for knowing that and for doing it right.