Friends, Not Food

I’m sorry to say that my posts for the next month or two are likely going to be far more sporadic than they already are. I’m going to try not to let that happen, but a few things have changed since my last post.

Firstly, while I’ve been lucky at work to only have to cover a specific type of sales chat, of which there are usually only a dozen or two spread out over the fifteen hours that we’re open for chats, that is on hiatus until July or August. Or, to put it another way, I actually have to do real work again until that’s reinstated. I was using my downtime at work to blog, but I don’t have downtime anymore.

That’s the first reason why the posts may slow down.

The other reason is a lot more exciting and way more adorable:

I GOT A PUPPY! (Like my cats, she’s also not a vegan.)

Her name is Morgan and she’s an eight(ish) week old pit bull, black lab mix. Since we’re in the middle of potty training, most of my free time goes to her. My cats are not at all pleased with this squirmy little ball of energy, and because she is currently the size of a small rabbit, two of my cats (namely Kitten and Geno) could literally kill her. So, constant vigilance is required.

Other than puppy news, I’ve been a vegan for just shy of two months now and have only deliberately eaten non-vegan foods once. Prior to picking up the puppy, I even trusted myself to go to Moe’s Southwest Grill on Saturday and not get their liquid crack otherwise known as queso dip.

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Instead I got a burrito bowl with cilantro lime rice, black beans, pico de gallo, seasoned tofu, and guac. Plus the chips, more guac (instead of queso) and literally the best tomatillo salsa I’ve ever had in life.

Since Saturday, it’s been ridiculously hot, and since I don’t have central air, I haven’t been doing any cooking beyond that which can be done in a microwave. I did have my second salad ever since becoming a vegan, with some vegan steak strips I found at Walmart of all places, plus some leftover Hardee’s French fries, grape tomatoes, scallions, chow mein noodles and vegan ranch.

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In fact, I’ll probably have the exact same thing for dinner today because it’s still hot and I still have leftover fries.

Anyways, blog friends, please forgive my absence for a little while. Much like Arnold, I’ll be back.

Additions–Both to the Blog and to my Belly

I finally decided to stop thinking about adding a Recipes section of the blog and actually follow through on it. You can find it over there on the right side of the page. The plan is to add to that one lonely recipe there, both in future posts and by going back to some previous ones where I talked about yummy foods.

I said it before and I’ll say it again: Sharing is caring. Plus, a lot of vegan food is really freaking good.

Sidenote: Don’t feel left out, omnivores. Since I live with and cook for someone who eats meat and cheese n’at, I may include a note at the end of the recipes on good ways to incorporate tasty animal flesh.

Side-sidenote: If I ever become the kind of militant vegan that goes around saying “Everyone should be vegan!” or, to put it another way, “My lifestyle choices are better than yours so be like me!” someone, please, hit me with something.

Anywho, let’s move on to the yummy-in-my-tummy stuff!

I literally just finished eating some of what I’m going to call “Beany Quinoa” and I liked it so much I decided I had to share this one. You’ve heard of red beans and rice? This is basically that, only without the sausage and, you know, the rice.

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I’ve been vegan for about two months now and this is actually the first time in life that I’ve tried quinoa. Take that stereotypes! That said, I’m a fan. I’ll be enjoying more of it now that I know what I’ve been missing.

Speaking of other things I’ve been missing, let’s talk about cheese again, eh?

I know what you’re thinking. “Oh sweet lord, please, don’t let her whine about cheese more. Either eat some or get over it by now!”

Well, I kind of did both! See, I went on Vegan Essentials to order a specific brand of vegan cheese, which they happened to be out of at the time. Being somewhat of an online-shopping addict, I glanced over the other vegan cheeses and ended up ordering a “smoked gouda” which cost way too much money and then required two-day shipping on top of it.

Totes worth it! I had me some cheese and crackers for lunch today.

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The texture is more like that of a spreadable cheese, which we all know that gouda is not. Also, it doesn’t actually taste anything like gouda–smoked or otherwise. That’s not the point though. The point is that it is vegan cheese and it is yummy.

Last but not least here, sometimes you just want a good cheeseburger, and sometimes, even though you’re vegan, you can have one. Observe!

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CHEESEBURGER!! I CAN HAS CHEESEBURGER!!!

It’s a black bean patty made by Lightlife foods and it was so good I’ll be getting more of them when I get groceries this weekend. The cheese-like yummy gooeyness on top is another product I got from Vegan Essentials. I don’t remember the official name but it was basically smoked cheddar cheese in a jar, much like queso dip.

Granted, it doesn’t taste like queso dip, and honestly, on its own it doesn’t even taste very good. However, on a burger, it is marvelous because it adds both cheesy texture and smoky flavor.

So much yum!

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.

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!

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!

The Cheese and the Feels

I had a dream that I very surreptitiously visited a McDonald’s out of town, where I was certain I wouldn’t run into anyone who knew I was now a vegan. During this illicit, illusionary visit, I ordered a Big Mac and fries. I was so excited that I could barely wait to sink my teeth into this delicious mound of unhealthy, abused cow flesh. At the same time, I felt so guilty. I hesitated. I reminded myself that it’s not right that a cow should die just to feed my food addiction.

I took a bite anyways. I chewed once, twice. It tasted awful and I spit it out. Surely, it was just that bite. It was mostly bread anyways. I knew the second bite would be as delicious as I remembered. But it wasn’t. It tasted like chemicals and death. I spit it out and felt both relieved and disappointed at the same time.

From there, it got weird. Something about customers being served grilled cheese sandwiches in stainless steal bowls of ice water and being largely dissatisfied with the quality thereof, but the first part of that dream really stuck with me. I haven’t eaten an animal in nearly three weeks now (although I’ve inadvertently eaten milk products twice), and what I miss the most isn’t meat.

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It’s still cheese.

I miss ooey-gooey, savory, sharp, tangy cheese, and I don’t know why I’m not having dreams about that instead. I signed a petition yesterday to try to get Pizza Hut to offer vegan cheese, out of the hope that a large national chain of pizza purveyors can get access to some highly processed, largely artificial, restaurant-quality vegan cheese that actually tastes good. If so, I will gladly pay their obscene prices for their subpar pizza and be contended.

The really horrible part is that every time I get to the point where I tell myself that screw it, I’m just going to be vegan except for cheese, a vegan friend of mine posts a video on Facebook of a baby cow being forcibly dragged from its mother while both animals struggle in vain to reach one another again, bleating and crying and panicking the whole time.

It’s heart-wrenching, and is my love for cheese really enough to justify that?

Never mind the environmental consequences of the dairy industry, never mind the dietary consequences of consuming dairy products, and even never mind the cruelty inherent in the veal industry, which is propagated almost entirely by the dairy industry–is smoked gouda or sharp cheddar or fresh mozzarella really worth that kind of pain, the pain of having your baby or your mother ripped from you?

I’m not even a mom–in fact am vehemently against the idea of ever becoming one–and the answer is no.