Monday, March 29, 2010

Massage Your Kale

By now we've all heard how healthy kale is and how we should all be getting more dark leafy greens into our diet. I confess, I haven't been very good at this until now. Unless I was making my cannellini & kale ragout, I wasn't eating much kale. I've tried kale chips, and um, FAIL. I don't prefer my greens baked and crispy.

Luckily, my dear friend and fellow foodie blogger City Girl pointed me towards Choosing Raw and this fabulous Massaged Kale Salad. At first, admittedly I was skeptical. How can raw kale taste that good? But oh... it can.

Now I've modified Gena's version a bit, to make it more palatable to my tongue (and my need for fat). I've been eating this salad nonstop! Soon I'll be one of those crazy health nuts who eats 1 lb of greens per day. ;)

Massaged Kale Salad

- 1 bunch of organic kale
- 1 small avocado
- half lemon
- kosher or sea
- good olive oil

Cut kale into strips and place in large bowl. While "massaging" kale, add olive oil. Massage. Then take avocado and crumble into salad and continue massaging kale. (The avocado will start to coat the kale and make it extra yummy.) Massage some more. Squeeze lemon over salad and sprinkle salt. Massage even more. The kale will noticeably "wilt" as you massage. This is good! It becomes softer and tastier the more you massage. You can either let it sit for awhile or eat immediately. Will keep in fridge for a day or two.

Now, until I can figure out more ways to get in my greens, I'll be eating this salad nonstop.

How do you get in your greens?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

To Be or Not To Be (Vegan)

[Note: This is not my attempt to convert you. I just thought it was a funny picture.]

Originally I planned for this post to be via vlog, but when I sat down and thought about it, I realized it would probably be: (1) too long; and (2) not as thorough. So here we go!

A little over one month ago, I decided to attempt a vegan diet. I had just finished reading Eating Animals, and the reality of the food industry and my personal eating habits kept gnawing at my growing heart. I figured it was now or never, and so I took the plunge. Luckily, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine was about to implement its 21-Day Vegan Kickstart, so I knew I'd have some sort of support along the way. I had a couple of mishaps during that first week (helloooo bread pudding a la mode), but once Day 1 of the Kickstart began, I adhered pretty strictly to a vegan diet (except for honey & sugar). Now that the 21 days are over, I want to sort of wrap up this whole "experiment" by answering some FAQ I've gotten along the way. If you have any other questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments or to email me at, and I'll be happy to answer them (unless you're just trying to be an ass, in which case, bugger off).

But... why?

Gosh, what a loaded question, huh? The short answer is that I went vegan for both my health and the animals (and the environment, etc.). Eating Animals obviously opened my eyes even further to the realities of factory farming and the impact that they have on the environment, the workers, and of course, the animals. But Eating Animals also got me questioning whether it's ever okay to eat animals, and whether slaughter of any kind can be considered humane. I still don't have the answers to those questions, but I didn't think I needed those answers to do what I believed to be right at the time. And that was to stop.

I stopped eating animal flesh awhile ago after seeing Food, Inc. (you can read more about that here), but this time, I felt the need to do more. So I cut out all meat (incl. seafood), dairy, and eggs. And that was that.

Was it hard to give up cheese?

Not really. Do I miss cheese? Yes, I get the cheesies every now and then, and the idea of eating cheese (namely in Paris) does cross my mind now and then. But giving up cheese was much easier than I thought it would be. It's amazing how much you realize it doesn't need to be on top of and in every dish known to man. And I will say this - once you cut the cheese (and dairy, in general) from your diet, your tastebuds kind of... come alive. It's like there was once a layer of gunk preventing me from truly tasting my food, and now that layer is gone. It's kind of amazing.

Do you feel better?

Yes. And I look better, too. In fact, in the past few days, I've gotten several comments on my skin and my weight. I've always had fairly good skin (merci, Mom!), but as my pedicurist (is that a word?) said today, I'm glowing. To be honest, I didn't notice, but I sure am glad other people are! And as far as weight goes, well, I'm not going to say I dropped 20 lbs immediately (although wouldn't that be nice?) because I'm still eating my fair share of calorie-rich food, and I'm certainly not depriving myself (hellloooo cupcakes). But. I feel lighter, my clothes are bigger, and the number on the scale has definitely gone down. And considering I've done zero exercise, I'd say that's pretty good!

What foods do you miss most?

Honestly, the foods I miss most are the ones that are probably the worst for me: pork (namely bacon & sausage) and cheese. I highly doubt I'll ever eat pork again, especially now that I know how intelligent pigs are. If I'm not willing to eat Lola, I'm not willing to eat a pig.

How did your friends and family react?

My family reacted much better than I anticipated. The first time I went vegetarian (while I was living in London), my Mom was less than pleased to learn I was no longer eating meat when I got back to the States for Christmas. This time, however, she was perfectly okay with my decision! We brainstormed about what Korean dishes I could still eat, and she sent me back to Austin with loads of yummy food. My Dad was totally fine with it. Ma Soeur? She thinks I'm nuts, but she asks me loads of questions and is genuinely curious about how I'm doing. And she has always been supportive about my food choices.

My friends' reactions have been mixed, but for the most part, they have been great. (They better be! They're my friends, after all.) Last night I made a vegan mac 'n cheese, and my friend Jenny, who is a very picky eater (she doesn't like "green things") and a huge mac 'n cheese fan, was willing to try it. And she LIKED it! I even sent her home with some!! YAY! In a month, I'll be traveling to NYC to visit some friends, and they've happily agreed to try some vegan eateries with me, even though I said I'd totally understand if they weren't crazy about the idea. Don't my friends rock?

Are you going to eat cheese after the 21 days is up?

Ah... the big question. Now that I'm done with the Kickstart, am I going to go back to my dairy-filled days? This probably won't surprise many of you, but the answer as of right now is no. Eating vegan has changed my life in so many unexpected and wonderful ways. I'm truly a happier person now than I was one month ago. I'm living my truth. My values are aligning with my actions. I'm learning every day about the realities of the world. My compassion for all living beings has grown exponentially. It's painful and difficult to know the truth, but I truly believe that knowledge is power (and that ignorance is NOT bliss!!!). Why would I go back to the way I was before when it wasn't that hard to get here?

What about leather?

Sigh... this is a tough one. Many fellow bloggers have said they would never use the label "vegan" (or any label at all) to describe themselves even if they follow a vegan diet. Some vegans (like the authors of Vegan Freak) believe that you can't call yourself a vegan if you still eat honey or wear leather. Others believe the label does not matter. Leather is tough for me. 90% of my bags and shoes are made of leather. And I know that leather is a by-product of the dairy industry (actually, leather helps fuel the dairy industry b/c it's so profitable whereas the food products are not). But still, it's so much easier for me to stop drinking milk than to stop wearing my beloved Frye boots or toting my Louis Vuitton. You can call me a hypocrite, you can call me shallow, you can say whatever other awful things you want to say. But I want to be honest here, and the honest truth is that I'm not ready to give up my leather. (Now, that being said, I also have not purchased a single leather product since "going vegan.")

"Don't do nothing because you can't do everything."

- Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

One more thing...

I couldn't have done this with you. As great as my "real-life" friends were about my choice, you guys were nothing short of phenomenal. The emails, the tweets, and the comments I received blew my mind. I honestly didn't expect such a positive and supportive response, but I am oh so very grateful that I did. You supported me every step of the way, and I cannot thank you enough for it. Truly, I couldn't have done this without you. Vegan Tomato is here to stay!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Day 21: Le Cupcake

To celebrate the fact that today is DAY 21 of the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart, I decided to make cupcakes! I, like most of the female population, adore cupcakes. I used to make them all the time in law school during finals to cheer up my uber-stressed friends. I rarely made them from scratch, though, that must be said. So I was more than a bit nervous to attempt vegan cupcakes that would, of course, be made from scratch.

Luckily, I received Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World as a gift ages ago, and after a little searching, I found this darling petit livre on my bookshelves and dusted it off. I wanted to start with a basic cupcake so I decided on vanilla with lemon cream cheese frosting. I am not a huge frosting fan (unlike most of the female population), but cream cheese frosting I love. It's not so sugary sweet as it has the delightfully thick and tangy quality of, well, cream cheese!

The process was fairly simple, and there were only a couple of ingredients I was missing (mostly because I rarely back from scratch). Voila the finished product!

Now, for my very honest review of the finished product...

The Frosting: Delicious! I used Tofutti's Better Than Cream Cheese and, to be honest, I was not optimistic. I tasted a tiny bit before whipping up the frosting, and I doubt I'd ever spread it on a bagel. But the frosting? Divine! Blended with powdered sugar, a splash of vanilla extract, and lots of grated lemon zest, this frosting definitely tastes as decadent as regular cream cheese frosting.

The Cake: Admittedly, I didn't love the cake. Don't get me wrong, it's good. It's just not my ideal. I liked that it's moist and light and fluffy. What I didn't like was the flavor. The recipe suggested I use almond extract in addition to vanilla, so I did. And I can tell. And I don't really like it. It just... doesn't work for moi, especially not in a basic vanilla cupcake. So next time, I'm just going to stick to the vanilla extract.

Overall: Yummy! I'm going to bring my friend Jenny one later tonight and the rest to work tomorrow. I've already had 2 today, and well, I think that's quite enough. :P

Gotta dash, but I'm planning to record a vlog just for vegan tomato, discussing my experience with vegan eating and cooking, and letting y'all know where I'm going from here. Stay tuned!!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Days 18-20: Carb Confession

I cannot believe that the 21-Day Kickstart is almost complete! Wow have these past 3 weeks flown by or what? Technically I've been eating vegan for about 4 weeks, but still, it's kind of incredible how quickly it's passed. I plan to do a lovely Day 21 finale blah blah post and well, answer all the questions everyone keeps asking me, (like, "So... are you going to eat cheese after the 21 days is up?") but for now, let's recap the past few days...

I've been on this insane, um, bread kick. First it was sourdough and then French batard, all of which I toasted and ate with a delectable smear of Earth Balance (which, btw, I didn't think would taste good on toast, but it is surprisingly just as comforting as butter). For a few days there I was eating toast with every lunch and dinner. Now before some of you haters play your "vegans only eat unhealthy carbs!" card, let me assure you that with those meals included plenty of whole grains, vegetables, and protein. I simply added toast because, well, why not? Anyway, the point is, I may need to go on a toast & EB cleanse along with my sugar cleanse. Eek!

But enough of my carb confessions, let's talk about what's been cookin' in the vegan tomato's kitchen! This weekend I found myself with a fridge full of leftover veggies. An onion here, some asparagus there, and I decided I should make a "clean out your refrigerator" kind of meal. Now, I'll be honest with you, I'm not so good of a cook that I can throw together random dying veggies and create a yummy dish that I'll actually eat (unlike Lauren, who by the way, is nothing short of incredible). So I did what any normal aspiring-vegan-not-quite-yet confident-cook would do, I turned to one of my newest cookbooks - Vegan Yum Yum. And voila! What better dish to cook when trying to use up leftover veggies than fried rice?

{photo credit: vegan yum yum}

Now, her fried rice is gorgeous and colorful. Mine was... not. But that's because I worked with what I had, and that was: asparagus, broccoli, and corn. I bought a portobello mushroom to add some meatiness, but sadly forgot to buy some sesame seeds for garnish (I love me some toasted sesame seeds). Nonetheless, it turned out pretty well!

Kind of looks more like risotto than fried rice, huh? That's because I used short-grain brown rice because I like the stickiness of it. Now, as good as this was, I will say this - it lacked... something. And maybe that something can only be achieved with the salty, flavorful pork that I'm so accustomed to adding to my fried rice, but then again, maybe not. I'm going to experiment more next time. Any thoughts/tips/suggestions?

Since I'm into this whole "don't waste your produce" thang (I've been known to throw old lots of veggies gone bad... no bueno), I've been trying to find a recipe that incorporates some campari tomatoes that my Mom bought me last time I was in Dallas. Earlier today I stumbled across this post by Shelly of Green Chic, and I knew that would be the perfect way to use my tomatoes. And the mac and cheese of choice? None other than another one of Lolo's from Vegan Yum Yum. How good does that look? Now imagine it with roasted tomatoes on top. YUM YUM! (I couldn't help myself.)

One last thing - I've noticed that my dessert-y sugar cravings have dramatically subsided. I used to want dessert after lunch and dinner, but not so much anymore. When I do crave something sweet, I whip up my cherry chocolate bomb shake, and I'm set. Now, if only I could explain my Mexican Coke obsession...

P.S. Merci for all the sweet words on my last post. You guys are my heroes, and I love you all!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Garlic & Greens Soup

I'm not a huge St. Patrick's Day person... I don't really care about green beer or pub crawls or whatever else you crazy kids are doing these days. As I got dressed this morning, I realized I don't even have many green clothes! Nope, I celebrated St. Patty's Day my own way - by making Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's Garlic & Greens Soup. This soup is from The Vegan Table and is quite possibly one of the healthiest meals I've ever made (well... minus the croutons hehe). The ingredients? Garlic (an entire HEAD), onion, greens (I used collard greens), water (or veggie stock), rice vinegar, and a few potatoes. I sauteed my garlic and onion in olive oil b/c well, that's just how I roll, but Colleen says you can saute them in water as well (but seriously... who does that??).

I have to admit that I was nervous about this soup. Scarily simple ingredients and lack of color variety kept me skeptical, but the soup was fantastic! Comforting and surprisingly full of flavor. In fact, next time I think I'm going to use 2 bunches of greens instead of 1. As it is, the soup is very broth-y, and I prefer more "stuff" in my soups. Plus adding more greens is always a good thing, n'est ce pas? Per my usual, I fried up a side of homemade croutons (aka just a sliced baguette sauteed in olive oil and sprinkled with salt & pepper). They are extra tasty when dipped in the broth!

Colleen says she believes that soup can be eaten year round, but I have to disagree. Maybe soup's okay in Northern California, but in the middle of a 100+ degree Texas summer? Absolutely not. So I'm going to make this soup as much as possible before it gets too hot!

Now, before I dash, I know it's cruel to talk up a meal and not post the recipe. But I don't think it's legal for me to do so... or maybe it is? I'm a lawyer, I should know this stuff! Ha! Lucky for you, I don't need to find out (legal research was never my forte) because Colleen has a video of herself making the soup ON HER WEBSITE! Click here, dolls (it's the 3rd video down) and enjoy your greens. *muah*

Days 16-17: Love

I'm in a great mood. Scratch that, I'm in a FANTASTIC mood. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping (not that I'd know really since I'm stuck inside an office sans fresh air), and this hump day is almost over. Tonight I have super sexy plans to make Garlic & Greens soup and watch Law & Order SVU, and I couldn't be happier about them. And life is... Well, quite frankly, life is good.

Embarking on this 21-Day Vegan Kickstart has somehow motivated me to get moving on many other areas of my life. I can't talk about it on the blogs, but it's incredibly exciting, and I just have that feeling that all signs are pointing to yes. KWIM? It's... I don't know, this has never happened to me before. I'm sorry I have to be so vague, but the point is, the decision to eat a vegan diet has somehow given me the courage and confidence I needed to make other decisions in my life. I never thought I could eat vegan, but here I am, doing it, and doing it surprisingly well. It's empowering. Now I know what people mean when they say that going vegan can change your life.

One thing is for sure - I couldn't have done this without you. Yes, YOU! I'm sad to say, but until recently, I've had little support from anyone in my "real" life and certainly not here in Austin. But you, all of you reading this, have been so incredibly supportive (even those of you who aren't vegan/vegetarian!), and I don't know how to thank you. Tell me how to thank you! Because I want to. I really really do.

On another note, I'm super duper glad that Blue Moon is vegan-friendly. PHEW!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Day 15: Smooth Skillz

It's Day 15 and the eatin' is GOOD! And since I had a smoothie for breakfast and dessert, I figured it'd be a good time to discuss my mad smoothie skillz.

My goal is to sip one green smoothie per day. Pourquoi? It's a sure fire way to get in my greens, fruit, and omega-3's. I either have one for breakfast or as a snack, and I alternate between 2 variations. And no, it really doesn't taste spinach-y. That's not to say you can't taste the spinach - I definitely know there's something green. But it's not gross, it's yummy! You should try it!

Carolyn's Green Smoothie

- 1 cup of nondairy milk (I typically use soy or rice)
- handful of frozen strawberries & blueberries OR a handful of frozen mango
- 1 frozen banana (this is KEY - blended frozen banana makes for an extra creamy smoothie)
- 1 tablespoon of ground flax seed
- dollop of peanut or almond butter
- a couple handfuls of raw spinach

Blend spinach and splash of milk first. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend. Scrape down the sides. Blend again. Pour into tall glass and feel good that you're drinking your greens!

The other smoothie I can't get enough of is the Cherry Chocolate Bomb Shake. I was inspired by Kristen's version, but mine feels more dessert-y due to the almond milk.

Carolyn's Cherry Chocolate Bomb Shake

- 1 cup of almond milk
- 1 frozen banana (again - this is KEY)
- handful of frozen cherries
- 2 tablespoons of hemp powder
- 1-2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder

The directions for this one is pretty easy. BLEND. Pour. Enjoy. With a straw.

I've been keeping a log of all my meals since Day 1 of the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart. It's kind of fun to see what I'm eating. Then again, sometimes it's sad - like the other night when my PMS cravings got crazy, and i had french fries and coke for dinner. Btw I think I have a coke problem and not the white powdered substance kind. I cannot get enough Mexican coke. And very occasionally, Dr. Pepper. HELP! Do I need to do a sugar cleanse??

I haven't had any soda today. Nope, today I had a green smoothie for breakfast, a vegan sandwich and fries at 24 Diner for lunch, and a big plate of leftover baked mexican rice (from here), corn, sliced avocado and sourdough toast (random, I know). And because I have a beautiful bunch of chard in the fridge and gorgeous yukon gold potatoes (from brunch!) in the pantry, I think I'm going to make the Garlic & Greens Soup from The Vegan Table later this week. Accompanied with crunchy homemade croutons, bien sur. You know me, I can't have a meal without carbs. :)

Happy eating, mes amies!!!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Days 13-14

An amazing thing happened to me this morning. I headed to Whole Foods to stock up for the week without having eaten breakfast (stupid, I know), and as I pulled into the parking garage, all I could smell was bacon. Seriously I don't know what was going on, but it was like Bacon Fest 2010. Oh and it smelled GOOD. My tummy immediately starting begging me for bacon. Trouble.

But as I walked around the store, gathering my vegan-friendly goodies, I started planning my brunch, and guess what? It didn't include bacon. Picked up some sourdough bread and cinnamon and nutmeg for french toast, yukon gold potatoes for home fries... Yum. All of a sudden bacon didn't sound so appealing to me. (This has never happened before!) As soon as I got home, I got to cookin' and had an incredible brunch that satisfied my penchant for sweet and savory.

The rest of my weekend was filled with lots of eating out. Saturday night I went to Trudy's, an Austin favorite (or used to be), and while the company was fantastic, the food was decidedly not. Also? The service was crap. Nonetheless I was content with my portobello fajitas and was not at all tempted by the queso (that was covered with a very suspicious and rather unappetizing layer of film) my friends so happily dug into.

Tonight's dining experience was substantially better. My friend Stina and I met up for a quick-ish dinner at The Cheesecake Factory before our viewing of Remember Me (Stina's a fellow twi-hard). Admittedly The Cheesecake Factory is not very vegan-friendly (despite its enormous menu), but my favorite salad was very easy to veganize - just leave off the chicken. Our server was also very helpful and made sure to check that both the bread and the salad ingredients were all egg and dairy-free. Hurrah!

Also? Stina was surprisingly AWESOME when I told her about my new eating habits. I thought she'd be a little put off (not in a bad way, just in an "okay... weirdo" way), but she was... incredible. Genuinely curious and very supportive - love. her.

So all in all? I had a great weekend! Oh and I got The Vegan Table and Vegan Yum Yum and devoured them. While I adore Colleen Patrick-Goudreau (her podcast - Vegetarian Food For Thought - is awesome!!), her cookbook is not as appetizing as Lauren Ulm's. While Colleen favors lighter dishes with foods I'm not terribly fond of (olives, capers, and bell peppers), Lauren is a woman after my own heart. I can't WAIT to try some of her dishes! (Oh and for you iphone-ers, Lauren has an awesome vegan yum yum iphone app!) (Psst - City Girl did a great review on Vegan Yum Yum that you can read here!)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Days 11-12

Food is so good, is it not? I can't even remember the last time I've eaten so good! And so much yummy homemade food. YAY! I'm super excited that Spring is near because I love love love Spring and Summer veggies. Last night I attempted to create a spring-friendly menu: bruschetta and roasted asparagus. (Actually I guess tomatoes are summer fruits, huh?) Unfortunately... both aren't quite yet in season, and I should've known that. While my dinner was good, I could tell the veggies were not at their prime. Still, it looked pretty, didn't it?

On a more exciting note, there's a new eatery opening at my apartments (it's a retail below, apartments above style) called Snap Kitchen, and I signed up for their listserve. Last week they offered a 70% discount for us to try some of their new eats, and I ordered the risotto (VEGAN), tabbouleh and babaganoush, and whole wheat pita chips. I love their menu because they make it very clear which dishes are gluten-free, nondairy, vegetarian, etc.

I had the risotto for lunch, and it was yummy! Chock full of veggies and very pretty. It wasn't exactly creamy... in fact, I'd call it more of a rice dish than a risotto, but it was still yummy. I haven't tried the babaganoush and tabbouleh, but the pita chips are fantastic. They're a little spicy and dusted with hot paprika... how come my pita chips never turn out that way?

Tonight I made baked mexican rice, loosely based on this recipe, homemade guacamole, and black beans sauteed with salsa and ground cumin. Wrapped all this goodness up in a tortilla and had myself a delectable mexican feast! (Sorry for the crap photos... I am so not a good photographer.)

The mexican rice was really, really good. I added lots more jalapenos than the recipe called for, but it still wasn't enough. I like it spicy! Anyway, it reminded me of jambalaya... don't you think it looks like jambalaya??

Like I said, food is good.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Days 8 -9

This week didn't start well, but my food is definitely going well. I haven't had any temptations since being home, and I even whipped up another batch of steel cut oats for breakfast. And last night? I made blueberry sour cream muffins using this recipe. I used Ener-G Egg Replacer and Toffuti Sour Supreme, and they turned out fantastic! Beautiful, moist and delicious.

So... it's kind of weird, but I feel like I'm not eating very healthy. Which is nuts because I'm definitely eating healthier than I have in a long time. But still, because I've been trying to to adjust to this new diet, I've made sure to have oodles of treats so I didn't feel deprived. S'mores, oatmeal cookie ice cream sammies, fried tater tots... And yet my body is craving more of the good stuff, so I think cutting down on the treats will naturally occur as I continue this journey. Wow I never thought I'd say that.

Also? I think I need to start working out again...

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Days 5 -7

A few things...

In order to satisfy my cravings for salt and fat, I hit up Chick-Fil-A a couple days ago for their infamous waffle fries. About halfway in, I suddenly realized... I don't want this. It felt like my tongue was being covered in this film of grease that prevented me from tasting anything at all. (Does that make sense??) So, I stopped. And threw the rest away. That was a first.

I spent the weekend in Dallas with my parents, and my Mom made me bibimbap, which is essentially a bowl of rice and loads of Korean "side dishes" (aka banchan) all mixed together with gochujang. Typically some sort of meat is also mixed in, and the entire thing is topped with a delectable fried egg (I have, ahem had, a thing for fried eggs). Obviously mine was made sans meat and egg, but it was still delicious. And check out the colors! You really can't do better than that.



Despite the deliciousness of the bibimbap, Saturday was tres difficult. Walking into a Korean bakery? Hard. Getting a free chocolate chip cookie at lunch and having to blindly hand it over to my Mom? Hard. Not being able to enjoy a cup of coffee at home b/c my parents didn't have any nondairy milk, and I don't take my coffee black? Hard. Oh and I still had the cheesies.

I realized just how vital home cooking is when you're eating vegan. You get sick of all the tasteless salads and plain baked potatoes, the only options at most meat-centric lunch spots. You want dessert, but you can't have any because you didn't bake them, and there's no Whole Foods anywhere near you, and your parents certainly don't have the ingredients necessary to whip up something.

Does this get easier? Being in the real world and being vegan?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Day 4: Heading North

Day 4 restored my faith in Austin restaurants. I had lunch plans with a friend at North, a "Modern Italian Restaurant" at The Domain - Austin's newest upscale luxury outdoor shopping mall (aka Dallas wannabe). Now, one might suspect that an Italian restaurant wouldn't be the best choice for a vegan, seeing as how most American-Italian dishes include copious amounts of cheese and cream. But I took a look at the menu beforehand and saw a couple of salad options that could easily be made sans cheese, and I figured it would be a better choice than California Pizza Kitchen.

But when I got to the restaurant, I found myself wanting something heartier and warmer than a salad. I wanted pasta. After scanning the menu, I semi-unapologetically (really trying to work on not apologizing for my requests, seeing as how there's no reason for me to be sorry) asked our waitress what pasta dishes could easily be made without dairy. She informed me that they actually have a dairy-free marked menu and brought it for me. Yay! I selected a yummy and fresh-sounding angel hair/tomato/basil concoction and ordered it sans ricotta. I also requested the addition of some greens (kale).

Not only did my lunch arrive in all its dairy-free glory, but the manager even came by twice to make sure that everything tasted good and met my expectations. Um, hello! TAKE NOTE, PAGGI HOUSE!!

And, for the record, my pasta was delicious. Fresh, warming and satisfying. I cannot begin to tell you how awesome it feels to know that I can dine at Italian restaurants and eat more than lettuce. :)

For dinner, I made bean burritos, and while they were good, next time I'm going to add more to them - like Mexican rice, lettuce, guac, etc. Anyone have a good Mexican rice recipe?

My friend Matt brought over his dinner that he picked up on the way - Wendy's. Now, I love Wendy's fries, but the bacon burger could not have been more unappetizing. All I could think of was the crap (literally, the fecal bacteria) swimming in that square piece of meat... yuck. He asked, like other friends have, whether I would be eating chicken and cheese again after the 21 days are up. Considering it was only Day 4, I hardly felt that I could adequately answer the question. But I did say this: I will never eat chicken again. His response? "I love my factory-farmed chicken."

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Day 3: The Cheesies

Today started out well. I made a big batch of steel cut oats (see my genius "recipe" here) last night and put it in the fridge. This morning I spooned out a bowl, heated it in microwave, and added maple syrup, raisins and toasted walnuts. Quick, easy, and yum!

For lunch I came home (lucky, huh?) and made another Amy's veggie burger with all its accoutrements. This time I added my leftover guac on top, and it was extra delicious. I also wanted it to feel like more of a "naughty" meal so I fried up my tater tots in some grapeseed oil (not deep fry, just pan fry), and they were DELICIOUS. Way better than Sonic's tots. :P

Came home and plopped on the couch with Lola. Eventually my hunger came, and I reheated last night's tah dig and braised collard greens. And I ate them. And they were good... but they weren't enough. Suddenly I found myself wanting something more, something comforting and warm and gooey and... cheesy. I got hit by the cheesies (ya know... like the munchies?? ha!).

All I could think of was ooey gooey pizza, beautiful cheesy layers of lasagna, and even gross stuff like mozzarella sticks. I quickly walked into the kitchen to see what I had that could possibly satiate this craving (nondairy, of course). Nothing. Nothing sounded good, nothing looked good. I paced. I sweared. I asked Lola to talk me off the ledge. Seriously, I was this close to calling Pizza Hut...

And then I spotted a lone sweet potato. And so I baked it. And ate it with a dab of Earth Balance. (And a Mexican coke.) And I felt... better. Did I still want cheese? Yes. But I didn't eat any. And then I proceeded to listen to Colleen Patrick Goudreau's "Vegetarian Food for Thought" podcast on cow's milk. And I hopped on and looked at these photos. And then I found the PETA Vegetarian Starter Kit (which you can download for free here), and just reading through it and being reminded of the realities/horrors of the dairy industry were enough. I don't want to be a part of that ever again.

So, I'm feeling better. I'm glad I didn't cave. But I still miss cheese.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Day 2: The Food

I think I'm going to try and blog about each day at the end of the day and have it post in the morning. Sound good? Good. :)

Okay so Day 2... I walked to the ginormous flagship Whole Foods from my office which I'd never done before! It's only about 1 mile away and yet the idea of walking seems absurd here in TX. Hate that mentality and am going to try and walk more while the weather is good.

Anyway, Whole Foods, as always, was a bit hard. The first thing I noticed/smelled/saw at the hot food bar was... King Ranch Casserole. Oh man, do you know what King Ranch Casserole is? It is heavenly. But so. not. vegan. It hurt a little to bypass the casserole and head for the salad bar, but I did it! In the end, I decided on a medley of brown rice, black beans, cilantro and lime tofu (surprisingly REALLY good), squash and steamed kale (oh and some jalapenos to spice it all up!). I thought it was going to be one of those "ugh i can't believe this is what i have to eat now that i'm vegan" meals, but it was... good. And satisfying! And I even tried to really chew my food like Alicia recommends doing in The Kind Diet. I think it made me feel fuller!

I also picked up a Sweet and Sara s'more for dessert, which was AH-MAZING. Dessert always helps. :)

For dinner I did successfully make tah dig as planned, although I must've been a bit too aggressive with the heat because the bottom layer of potatoes burned. Le sad. So it wasn't very pretty, but still delicious! I ate it with a huge side of braised collard greens. Yum!

That's all for today. I'm still going strong! Feeling good!! But still needing/wanting a ridiculous amount of sleep and getting sleepy during the day. Hmph. I wonder if that will ever go away?

Day 2 (of 21 Day Vegan Kickstart)

Yesterday was the first day of the 21 Day Vegan Kickstart, and although I've been eating mostly vegan for the past week and a half, I feel like I'm really in this now. It helps that many of you are joining me. :)

Day 1 went splendidly until dinner. Dinner was fine and vegan and all that, but I got un peu peeved at an Austin restaurant for telling me that risotto can't be made without cream. (You can read all about it here.) I was really, really craving risotto, and so that was a total bummer. Luckily I came home, took a hot bath and enjoyed a homemade pb cup and felt a lot better.

Tonight I'm planning to make Tah Dig, aka Persian potatoes and rice with mushroom confit and cilantro, a la Voracious Vegan. As soon as I saw this dish, I knew I had to make it. Crispy potatoes?? Yes, please! Doesn't it look yummy??

Ooh also - I got Vegan Brunch yesterday and should be receiving Becoming Vegan in the mail tomorrow. I promise I'm not trying to go vegan book crazy, but I think that some of these are essential to my well-being (and sanity) for the next 21 days. I want to make sure I'm getting all the vitamins and nutrients I need! I've been known to survive on french fries alone, after all...

Monday, March 1, 2010

Weekend Eats: Corn & Black Bean Quinoa Tacos, Chocolate PB Cups, Pad Thai & More!

These were super delicious. I was truly surprised that I didn't miss the cheese at all. The filling was yummy quinoa with black beans, corn, jalapeno, and lots of spices, topped with easy guac, chopped cilantro, and spicy salsa. My only complaint? I can't ever get my tortillas tasting as delicious as they do in the restaurants! Any tips? I heated mine in the oven this time and then tried them on a pan, but neither produced the warm, pliable, almost crispy but not slimy/rubbery texture that restaurants provide.

Alicia's chocolate peanut butter cups!! These are as amazing as everyone says! My only complaint is that the chocolate did not easily spread over the peanut butter because the peanut butter mixture was too hot so the chocolate just sank in. Next time I'll wait until the pb mix cools a bit. Either way, they were insanely delicious. 100x better than Reese's!

I made another green smoothie! Spinach, ground flax, peanut butter, soy milk, frozen strawberries & blueberries, and banana.

Vegan-style fast food! I made veggie burgers (used Amy's veggie burger, and I REALLY liked them) topped with organic ketchup, organic mustard, delicious bread & butter pickles, and crisp romaine and oven "fried" tater tots (from Whole Foods). SO GOOD. I'm going be making a lot of my veggie burgers at home now that I've learned that my favorite take-out veggie burger (from P Terry's) is made with cheese. I think I'm going to email the owner about that! It's an Austin chain. :)

Finally, I made pad thai with all kinds of yummy goodness: bok choy, tofu, lots of chopped peanuts, scallions, and cilantro. Unfortunately, it came out AWFUL. It looks good, right? But it was super dry, and the noodles were terrible! I don't think I soaked them long enough or correctly... I don't know. This recipe was loosely based on one my sister gave me ages ago. I managed to eat my plate, but removed all the noodles from the leftovers and plan to eat it with jasmine rice. Rice noodles, why do you hate me?

That's all, folks! I think this is the first weekend in a LONG time that I cooked every single meal. Wow! Also? I lost another pound. I feel awesome!!! Veganism ROCKS!