I Do Chipotle Better Than Chipotle!

…except for stale chips and trendy hipsters. I don’t do those better. Or bad décor and long lines. OK, maybe I don’t “do” Chipotle better, but I definitely do sofritas better!

I very subtly gave you all the recipe in my last post, and ever since then, I’ve craved it. Now my tummy has a happy because I just finished a delicious Chipotle-style sofritas bowl.

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While I didn’t make the Salsa myself (I can’t keep tomatoes long enough to turn them into salsa because I eat them), I did turn my leftover brown rice into cilantro lime rice, and I made the whole thing vegan by using vegan cheese and vegan sour cream. All I have to say here is OM NOM NOM NOM!

(Sidenote: I should make a recipes page. Sharing is caring.)

In other news, last night was supposed to be a BIG test for me but it ended up only being a small test. See, the boyfriend and I were going to meet a friend at Buffalo Wild Wings to eat and watch the Pens game. I explicitly chose “B-dubs” because they have TVs on which to watch the game and because they have a black bean burger option, which seems to be the easiest way to acquire vegan food while eating at non-vegan locations (other than literally eating whatever pile of unripe vegetables they want to call a garden salad).

I still really, really like chicken wings and it was an absolute certainty that the boyfriend was going to order them and that I would be able to see and smell them but not eat them.

I was scared.

However, the friend canceled on me, so the boyfriend and I decided to make what we western Pennsylvanians call a “Sheetz run” instead. (Sheetz is a local gas station chain that makes made-to-order food.) Now, my typical Sheetz run involves getting popcorn chicken, cheese bites, fried pickles, and–if I’m feeling particularly raunchy–an Oreo frozen cream. All of these things are completely terrible for me and completely yummy.

Now though, I can eat literally none of them. (Admittedly, the fried pickles are a toss up; I don’t know how they make their batter.) So instead, I stuck with my convictions and just got fries. Then I took them home and worked some magic on them that involved black beans, vegan cheese, scallions and some of my leftover vegan ranch.

(Holy crap, that ranch is still super good!)

Anyways, voilà!

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It was good, it was waaaay too much food, and the Pens won. A good night was had by all!

Except the Capitals and their fans.

Boo.

 

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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.

Pretty Sure I Broke a Rule

Let me just preface this by saying I didn’t eat anything that came from an animal.

I’ve still been chugging along, eating leftover couscous and experimenting with something called Somen noodles (which are remarkably similar to angel hair pasta when cooked).

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Sometime this weekend, I plan to make seitan since I can’t find it at any store I’ve gone to, even the ones that sell vegan products. Plus, a coworker gave me a recipe for vegan chocolate chip cookies and I do love me some chocolate chip cookies.

How, then, did I break a rule? Well, I didn’t eat meat, but I cooked meat. Is that bad? I don’t know.

See, I’m in school part time and I needed a proctor for my World Lit exam, and my boyfriend’s mother was cool enough to do it. As a thank you, I offered to cook her dinner. She’s not a vegan, is a fairly picky eater, and I know she likes chicken. Also, since I still have a freezer with various animal parts in it, at least it didn’t go to waste.

I might be playing around with a cruelty-free lifestyle, but I still hate wasting food. It’s my grandmother’s fault.

I still have butter in the fridge too, so I made a butter sauce (with thyme and garlic) to drizzle on the chicken and the brown rice and red peppers that went with it. It looked good. It smelled good. I’m told it was good, and I very much wanted to have some.

But I didn’t.

I watched her eat, lied and said that I already had, and then when she left a few hours later, I heated up some leftover Somen noodles with edamame and peanut sauce. It was also good.

 

All of the Oopsie Daisies!

Let’s start off on a happy note first!

I just ate a yummy dinner of couscous with red kidney beans, sautéed mushrooms, and scallions. Honestly, I was a little scared of how this would turn out. I make a pretty delicious vegetarian couscous with Kalamata olives, cucumber, roasted red peppers, fresh onions, lemon juice, and feta cheese, but the feta is totally the highlight of that dish. I wasn’t sure how to tackle couscous without it, but the answer was cumin, paprika, and garlic powder. I might add some fresh herbs next time for even more layers of flavor. I just didn’t have any today.

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Looks good, doesn’t it? Onto the bad news then..

Yesterday, I was accidentally not a vegan. But let’s back up for a moment, shall we?

Portable food is a difficult thing to manage. I work at home, but I’m in the middle of three straight weeks of having to go into the office to teach and mentor some new people we’ve brought onto the team.

Since I’m forced to drag myself, inch by traffic-congested inch, into downtown Pittsburgh during rush hour every morning, I’m also forced to brown bag it. This is the reason I’ve actually tried tofurkey. It’s also the reason that I screwed up yesterday.

I was in a hurry in the morning (shocker) and after packing my tofurkey on whole grain bread, my two clementines, and shoving a miniature sleeve of whole wheat Ritz crackers into my lunch box, I decided I would need more protein. Without reading the label, I dumped about a quarter of a cup of cinnamon almonds into a baggie, shoved it in my lunch box, and ran out the door.

Cinnamon. Almonds. Both of these things are plants. No way it’s not vegan, right?

…right?

When I got home nearly 12 hours later, the pack of almonds was still on my counter and I decided to double check the label.

Honey and evaporated milk were among the ingredients. Son of a…!

It only took three days to screw this one up. And this might sound weird, but I feel guilty about not really feeling all that guilty about it.

I decided to get back on the horse though. I kept it vegan for dinner last night and all of today. I will say this though: Remember a couple of posts ago when I said that coffee with almond creamer was perfectly fine? I may have been lying. Not just to all of you, but to myself as well. Since I waved good bye to the half and half, I’ve rather lost all enjoyment for coffee. Neither almond nor soy creamer is getting there. It’s just not creamy enough and the flavor is all wrong.

Non-vegans: If you wanted to try this whole veganism thing one day, and you like your coffee with cream like I do… sorry. I’ve got nothing–no optimistic niceties or work arounds. Hopefully, you’ll like the plant-based creamers more than I do. If not, you might just have to ask yourself how important it is to you and act accordingly.

As for me, I’m switching to tea, effective 6AM tomorrow. Spiced chai is delicious, with or without cream in it.

Vegan Surprises Everywhere!

I have been a rather convincing vegan for two days now. Look at me go! I’ve acquired some new vegan products at the store (tofurkey is not nearly as gross as it looks!), I have strained my eyes reading the tiny print on a whole slew of nutrition labels (what the crap is sodium hexametaphosphate?), and I have googled “Is XXX vegan?” more times than I can count.

The real test, I think, will be the first time I eat out and I have to interrogate the poor waiter and then probably make a ridiculously complicated order.

My foods have ranged from highly processed items of questionable nutritional value to surprisingly simple items with only one or two ingredients. They have all been pretty good though. Today’s dinner was angel hair pasta with some of my homemade tomato sauce, which has always been vegan because people who ruin perfectly good Italian-style tomato sauce by putting chunks of meat in it should be punished.

(A reminder to the non-vegans: I still think meat is delicious, but it just doesn’t go in sauce. Or lasagna, for that matter. It’s wrong.)

Speaking of vegan cooking, look what came today!

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I finally cashed in my recognition rewards at work and got myself some books! I’ve already cracked open “Vegan Comfort Food,” and I can’t wait to try some of these recipes out.

That’s one thing I’ve noticed so far about veganism. While you can get by in a pinch with having a vegan grilled cheese sandwich (also yum, by the way!), you really have to plan and cook in order to make it work. Fortunately, cooking is my third favorite hobby.

The first is writing; the second is eating. Go figure.

Last but not least, I want to share some surprises I’ve discovered in these two short days. Panko brand plain bread crumbs are not vegan, even though bread generally is; Worcestershire sauce is not even close to vegan because anchovies, and oh my god, honey isn’t vegan either?!

When I think of honey, I think of plants. There’s clover honey, and orange blossom honey, and alfalfa honey. This sounds vegan. I would even go so far as to say it sounds extremely vegan.

Except for the bees. Crap.

In other news, I apparently need a new brand of chapstick. Burt’s Bees has always been my favorite. Doh!

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.