Saturday, May 20, 2006

A Vegan Lunchcast Tutorial - How to Make Seitan

Well, I promised that I would document the process with pictures if I made some seitan this weekend, so here it is. I was originally planning on doing chicken-style, but I need some for fajitas so I will be doing beef-style instead. It's the same process though, and you'll get the picture. I actually ended up using a hybrid recipe which contains my favorite parts from two different seitan recipes. This first pic is a shot of all the raw ingredients that you will need to gather. This is the only one of the set that is interactive. Moving your cursor over each item will identify it in a pop-up text box. The actual recipe that we will be using looks like this:

SEITAN (Dry ingredients)
2 cups of Vital Wheat Gluten
2 Tbsp of All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup of Nutritional Yeast

SEITAN (Wet Ingredients)
1 1/2 cups of Cold Water
1/2 cup of Bragg's Aminos, Tamari or Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp Ketchup
1 Tbsp Canola Oil (or Olive Oil)
2 cloves of Chopped Garlic
1 tsp of Lemon Zest

12 cups of Cold Water
1/2 cup of Bragg's Aminos, Tamari or Soy Sauce

First combine the three ingredients that make up the dry part of the recipe. Here, as you can see, I have put them into the mixing bowl of my KitchenAid Mixer. If you have one of those, it will really make the process of making seitan easier for you. After you have the dry ingredients together in the bowl, then it's time to mix up the wet ingredients in a separate bowl. It's important to do this in a different bowl and then add the wet stuff all at once because if you just started adding wet things to this one by one, it would gel up on you and everything wouldn't get mixed well and you would end up with a big mess.

So, in a different bowl, combine all of the wet ingredients and mix them together really well with a whisk. If you are missing some items, it's easy to do substitutions. In fact, the original recipes call for tomato paste, but I hate opening a can just to get a tablespoon out, so I always use ketchup instead. It works just as well. Now that you've got all your wet ingredients stirred together really good, it's time to bring them together with the dry ones, but first...

Make sure that you use a dry wisk, or a fork, and mix the dry ingredients up real good before the wet liquid hits them. This will help make sure that everything gets distributed really well throughout the entire loaf of seitan. If you just dropped liquid in on top of this without stirring it really good, the gluten would set up and leave all that flour and nutritional yeast sitting out there unincorporated. This is a picture of all the dry ingredients, mixed really well, waiting in the mixing bowl for the wet ingredients.

And this is what it looks like immediately after you pour all of the wet ingredients in on top of the dry ones. If you're using a mixer, then right after you do this, get the mixing blade into the bowl and get that stuff mixing. If you're using a spoon, or whatever, and doing it by hand, start mixing it immediately. On a KitchenAid mixer, I just use the lowest setting along with the flat paddle mixer. I tried making it once using the dough hook attachment, but that just really didn't work well for me.

Here's a shot of what it looks like as it mixes. You'll want to let it mix a good 5 minutes or so. I don't know if it's possible to overmix it. I doubt it. There's also a little bit of art to this right here at this point. As mine was mixing I thought it looked just a little bit too wet, so I tossed in 3-4 more Tbsp. of all-purpose flour just to help it come together into a solid mass a little bit more. While this is mixing you can get your cooking broth together in a big pot and bring it to a boil on the stove.

When the seitan is all finished mixing, and you remove the bowl from the machine, you should have something that looks like this. I know it's not pretty, but trust me, this will look like pieces of steak in the end. In fact, it's even gonna' get a little creepier looking as it cooks because it basically ends up looking a little bit like a brain, but oh well. It ends up pretty in your final dish, and that's what matters.

Plop the big, sticky, rubbery glob of gluten out onto a cutting board and shape it into a loaf shape using your hands. Stretch it out pretty good because you are going to be cutting it into about six smaller pieces. Once you have it in a nice loaf shape, just let it sit and rest while you continue to wait for your cooking broth to come to a boil. When it does start boiling, then turn the heat down to low where it will just simmer from this point on. It's very important that it does not boil while the seitan is in the broth.

The broth can cool down and stop boiling while you cut your big piece of seitan into six smaller pieces. I like to use a serrated steak knife because it seems to cut through the rubbery stuff a little better. I'm cutting mine here into big chunks because I am later going to slice them into small strips, like you would find in a fajita. If I were making chicken-style seitan, like for the buffalo wings, I would probably use kitchen shears and cut this big loaf into small chicken-like pieces and let them drop directly into the cooking broth.

Here I am using a spoon to carefully place the six pieces of seitan into the cooking broth. Be careful here and don't let the broth splash on you. If it is still boiling and you can see bubbles in it, just wait a few minutes until that stops before you add the seitan. Remember, DO NOT let it boil with the seitan in there. If it does, then the water in your rubbery seitan will vaporize into steam creating large holes in the seitan and you will end up with a really poofy spongy mess. The seitan is going to end up being spongy enough on its own without any help from us adding large holes to it. Once your broth is ready, and you get the seitan in it, then just put a lid on it and go watch television or something for an hour while it simmers.

After an hour or so of simmering, the seitan will signal that it is done by floating to the top like this. Remember, I warned you this wasn't going to be pretty. It kinda' looks like brains doesn't it? Normally, at this point, I remove the pot from the stove and put it somewhere out of the way to cool. I usually even dump a couple of cups of ice cubes in just to help it cool down completely. It is VERY IMPORTANT that you let it cool down completely if you want your seitan to be as firm and as meat-like as possible.

Here is a picture of one of the chunks sliced in half after it has cooled off. You can use the chunks immediately or store them in a container of their broth in the fridge for about 5 days. If you want, you can even plop the big chunks into a ziplock bag and throw them in the freezer for use later. I plan on using mine right now to make fajitas, so I am slicing each chunk in half like this, and then cutting it into slices, which I can then cut in half giving me nice steak-like slices that look like this...

TAH-DAH! This is the finished product, beef-style seitan. This stuff is great for making fajitas like the ones I brought the other day in my lunchbox. I can also see cutting this up into small cubes and using it to make chimichangas or something like that. You can also just drop the big chunks into a food processor and grind them right up and use them as a substitute for ground beef in just about any recipe like tacos or spaghetti sauce. Some people even like to cut the big pieces into very large slices and then dip them in flour, soy milk and bread crumbs and then fry them in a skillet and cover then with gravy, etc. I haven't tried that yet, but I plan to.

So there you go. This is what it looks like when I make seitan. It's really not hard. I think that the biggest danger is making sure that the broth does not boil while the seitan is in it. Other than that, there's not too much that can go wrong. I hope this is helpful showing you what this stuff looks like in all the intermediate stages because, as you can see, it is not pretty at all. The first time I made it, about halfway through, I was wondering if I should just throw it all in the trash or what. But as you can see from the pics, if you just stick with it and follow through to the end, you CAN make your own homemade meat replacement that is a whole lot cheaper, and a whole lot tastier than anything you can buy at the store. Now go make some seitan. GOOD LUCK!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Fast Food Friday @ BARBERITOS

Well, today ended up being another Fast Food Friday since I got to leave work at lunchtime. Today I decided to go to a new restaurant in town that opened up a few months ago. I have been meaning and meaning to go there but just never got around to it. Barberitos is a small chain of fast food restaurants that is basically something like a cross between Taco Bell & Subway. They serve burritos and nachos and such, but the store is set up like Subway where you just go down the line and tell them what you want on your food and they make it there right in front of you. According to the info at their website, they are only in a few states so far, so there may or may not be one where you live. Apparently, they also normally serve beer, hence the cantina part of their name, but they were not serving beer here at the one where I live yet because it was covered up on the menu. Maybe they are still working on getting their beer license.

One of the reasons that I had been wanting to try this place is because I knew that they actually serve a vegan burrito, and that's exactly what I got. It was a great big spinach tortilla filled with rice, black beans, lettuce, tomato, onion, mushrooms, guacamole and some grilled chipotle tofu. It was quite good. Gosh, it is so nice when you walk into a restaurant and see the word VEGAN right there on the menu. It makes things so much easier. Although some of the people working there aren't too familiar with what that means judging from the fact that the guy making my vegan burrito asked me if I wanted cheese on it.

The burrito came with some chips and homemade salsa. Overall it was a good meal. It was slightly expensive (close to $9) in my opinion. I could have gotten something similar at Taco Bell for a whole lot less, but of course it wouldn't have had grilled tofu on it. I will probably eat there again someday.

Well, that does it for Friday. It's time to go and mow the yard now. I plan on making some more Seitan Buffalo Wings tomorrow (probably tomorrow, maybe Sunday, but most likely tomorrow) and I will photograph each step of the process and post it on here as a sort of Making Seitan 101 tutorial. I swear guys, it's really easy, you'll see.

So thanks for stopping by and I hope everybody has a great weekend. I'll see you here with the seitan sometime between now and Monday. Have a good one!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Thai Red Curry Tofu & Vegetables

Today for lunch, I tried to make something homemade that was similar to the wonderful meal that I had a couple of weeks ago at Tomy Thai. I simply cooked up a package of extra firm tofu and a bag of frozen stir fry vegetables with a can of Light Coconut Milk and a Tbsp. of A Taste of Thai Red Curry Paste. Needless to say, I left out the fish sauce. There are all kinds of vegetables in there like onions, red & green bell peppers, green beans, broccoli, sugar snap peas, water chestnuts, etc. It's not nearly as good as the stuff I got at the restaurant, but it's still very good... and SPICY!

To go with the tofu I made some Coconut Jasmine Rice using the recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. This is the same rice that I made back when I had the Jerk Seitan, however, I made one major modification to it this time. After I made it before, a day or so later, I realized that putting a whole can of regular coconut milk in my rice meant that I had added something like 63 grams of saturated fat to it. 63g of saturated fat in the rice!?!?! That's one of the reasons I used the Light Coconut Milk in the curry sauce this time. And for the rice, I ended up using Goya Coconut Water instead. It's basically fat free, and the rice ended up being every bit as delicious as it was with all that fat in it. The rice was cooked with a cinnamon stick in it, and when it is done you normally pick the stick out and throw it away. Instead of throwing it away though, I just laid it on top of the rice in my lunchbox to make it look nicer when I open it up to eat it today.

I also brought some raw carrots to nibble on, and for dessert I packed a few Newman-O cookies. I have been meaning to try these things. I see them in the store all the time. And this week there is a huge display of them on an end-cap and they're on sale, so I finally picked some up. They are very good. They taste like you would expect, just like an Oreo. Well, actually, I think they taste a little bit better than an Oreo. And well, while these aren't exactly health food, they are vegan, and I had been wanting to try them. They're really good.

Well, that's all for Thursday. I haven't decided what I'm gonna' do for tomorrow yet, whether I am going to pack my lunch or go out for something at a restaurant again since I only have to work half a day on Friday. I guess I'll decide later this evening.

Thanks for checking in. Have a great day and I'll see you on Friday.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Seitan Buffalo "Wings"

Okay, I felt kinda' strange bringing buffalo wings for lunch today, but since a lot of people seemed to be interested in how they turned out, and since we've been on such a seitan kick here lately, I went ahead and brought them. And now that I think about it, it's really not that bad of a lunch. First of all, I have, of course, the seitan buffalo wings that I made recently. They are just made of some chunks of homemade seitan (this time I used the recipe from La Dolce Vegan by Sarah Kramer - she has a gluten recipe that is specifically chicken-like in flavor) which I then covered in some buffalo sauce made by simply mixing Frank's Famous RedHot Sauce and melted Earth Balance Margarine. This is the most significant source of fat in today's lunch (more on that later), but it's really not that much fat (there was only 1/4 cup of Earth Balance in the whole batch and this is just a fraction of it). Plus, the types and ratios of fats in Earth Balance are proven to IMPROVE your cholesterol. So at least it has that redeeming quality. Trust me. These are good!

I brought along some celery and carrots to go along with the "wings". And then I've got a container of vegan ranch dip down there to dip everything in. There's a story here too. I used to make ranch dip by mixing a pack of the ranch mix from Kroger (which just happens to be vegan) with a container of Tofutti Better than Sour Cream. Well, that would be about 1/3 of that container in today's lunch, and a container has 60 grams of fat in it, so I would have been looking at probably 20 grams of fat just in the dip. So what did I do instead? I pulled out Sarah Kramer's cookbook again and found a recipe for sour cream that uses Silken tofu, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, a little sugar, a little canola oil (only 1 Tbsp, which is 14g fat), and some Tamari. I made the stuff and it completely filled one of the Tofutti containers that I had washed and saved. Then I made the ranch dip from that. So instead of having 60g of fat in a batch of ranch dip, now I have 14g. And that means I've only got 4-5g of fat in the amount of dip in my lunch. Plus, if you wanted to, you could probably even leave that 1 Tbsp. of canola oil out completely, making the stuff virtually fat-free. And yes, it tastes just as good as the dip made with the Tofutti.

Since I HAVE to eat wings with my fingers (licking the sauce off your fingers is half the fun) that made today's lunch another one where I didn't need the utensils, leaving that compartment free to hold a Cashew Cookie Larabar.

I will probably try and do a picture tutorial on making seitan this weekend. If I do, I have something in mind that came to me when making the pieces for these buffalo wings. I'll keep it a secret until this weekend, but if it works like I think it will, it will be a delicious new recipe that I will personally make ALL THE TIME. Oh, I hope it works. I'm pretty sure it will. Okay, enough about that.

If you used to eat buffalo wings and miss them, I would recommend making them from seitan. They are very authentic. One thing I forgot to mention up top was that after boiling the seitan pieces in their broth for an hour, I did take Sarah Kramer's advice and then place them on a pan and bake them in the oven for 30-40 minutes to make them even chewier. This makes the outside of the pieces get a lot drier and more chewy, not to be gross, but it gives it a texture that is very similar to real wings with the outside being a tougher "skin" and then a softer, more tender, "meatier" inside. Not bad from something made at home from scratch.

Thanks for stopping by! See you on Thursday!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Vegan "Turkey & Cheese" Hoagie

I have been craving a great big ol' sandwich for lunch here lately, so today I brought one. Since it's vegan, there is, of course, no real turkey or cheese on it, but what is on it are two of the best vegan replacements for those items that I have found. I started out by just taking a regular old hoagie bun that I picked up at the grocery store (I checked the label to make sure there wasn't any egg or whey or anything like that in there) and then I added 3 slices of Light Life's Deli Turkey Slices and a slice of Tofutti American Soy Cheese. I topped it all off with some fresh lettuce, tomato and onion. I left the top of the hoagie bun off so that I could photograph the sandwich. After taking the picture though, I replaced the top bun and was able to close the lid on the lunchbox, so it was a perfect fit. Mmmmmm... This will be yummy. I can't wait until lunch time.

Then, to be as good as I possibly could, I filled the rest of the lunch box with some raw food. I've got broccoli and cauliflower up there in the larger container and then some fresh blackberries in the small container. Since everything in today's lunch can be eaten with your hands, I didn't have to pack the fork & spoon which left me a nice empty space to stow an Apple Pie Larabar (my favorite!). I tilted it out a little for the pic, so you could see the label, but it fits completely in that compartment and doesn't interfere with closing the lid.

Thanks to the sinister brooke mentioning buffalo wings in the discussion in the comments yesterday about seitan, I got stirred up last night and made some from scratch, and boy were they good. It was after dinner before they were finished, so I didn't eat many, which means I have a bunch of them left in my fridge. They may make an appearance in the lunchbox tomorrow, if I don't eat them all tonight when I get home. Can you have buffalo wings for lunch? Is that legal? If they make it into tomorrow's lunch I'll talk more about what I did to make them in tomorrow's post.

Well, I guess that just about does it for Tuesday. Thanks for stopping by and I'll see you tomorrow!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Vegan Sloppy Joe

Well, it's Monday and the lunchbox is back at work with me. I made another big batch of homemade seitan this weekend from the recipe in Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. That stuff is so good, and so easy to make. I had fajitas again for dinner this weekend, and we even made tacos from some of it one night. They were very good. I just ground the seitan up in the Cuisinart and then seasoned it with a regular old taco seasoning packet. I swear the stuff was the exact consitency of the meat on the tacos at Taco Bell. They were very tasty.

For lunch today, I didn't want to repeat anything from last week already, so I opted to use what was left of my batch of seitan from this weekend and make Sloppy Joes. I simply ground 16 ounces of the seitan in the food processor and then cooked it up in a skillet using my favorite Sloppy Joe recipe. I used to make this recipe all the time back when I used to eat meat, and I remember how amazed I was when I discovered it and found out that you could make Sloppy Joes from scratch without the storebought canned sauce. I had no idea that there were so few ingredients involved. And I think that it tastes even better than the storebought sauce. Anyway, it was really easy to make, I even used the frozen pre-chopped onions and green peppers, so there was very little work involved. When it was all done, I put it on a whole wheat bun and it was good to go.

I finished filling the lunch box with some raw items. I've got some celery, some carrots and then a Banana Cookie Larabar for dessert. There's a whole banana squeezed into that bar, so when you figure that, plus the dates, plus the nuts, plus the other two raw items I brought, there's actually quite a bit of stuff that's good for you in today's lunch.

I didn't make the Sloppy Joes until late last night, well after dinner, so I wasn't hungry at the time and didn't even taste of it. I know the sauce from the recipe is good from my previous experience of using it with things that are NOT VEGAN. I know the seitan is good because I have been eating it in various forms for about a week solid now. So surely the two together will be good. I think they will. I will stick something in the comments later this afternoon, after I eat it and let you know what I thought about the taste.

On a side note, I was over in Asheville, NC again this weekend and ending up eating at The Laughing Seed restaurant again. Oh my gosh is that place good. I was starving so I got an entree called Curry-Crusted Tempeh, which was delicious, and I got some kind of vegan pound cake for dessert that had walnuts, carrots (I think) and I don't know what all else in it. Dang it was good. I didn't have my camera with me or I would have taken a picture for the blog. Maybe I need to get me one of those camera neck straps and just wear the thing all the time like a tourist. That place wins like the "Best Vegetarian Restaurant in North Carolina" award every year. So you can imagine how good it is. YUM!

Well, I guess that just about does it. Thanks for stopping by and I'll see everybody tomorrow!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Fast Food Friday @ FAZOLI'S

Well, I told you that I might do some fast food this Friday if I got to leave work early, and I did, so here it is. I decided to go to Fazoli's because last week, when I was thinking about starting to document some vegan fast food options on here, I sent Fazoli's an e-mail asking them about vegan dining options at their restaurant. Actually, I was really only asking about the marinara sauce to confirm that it was vegan. Well, I got this nice reply from someone at Fazoli's:

Thanks for your interest in the Fazoli's menu. Although we are limited in vegan options, we do offer a few. The list of these options include:
Spaghetti (or any of our other noodles)
Marinara Sauce
Dry Breadsticks - no garlic butter topping
Garden Side Salad - Lite Italian Dressing, no croutons
Lemon Ice

If I can answer any other questions about the Fazoli's Menu, feel free to contact me. I am more than happy to help.

Tanya Graf, M.S., R.D.
Quality Assurance Manager
Fazoli's Management, Inc.

I thought that was a very nice response, and it was quick too. So basically, I ended up going to Fazoli's today and ordering everything that was on this list. I did pick the whole wheat penne for my pasta just to make the meal as healthy as I possibly could. The picture above should be interactive, so as you move your pointer over the different items on the table, small text boxes should pop up and indentify each one for you. Fazoli's was actually one of my favorite fast food places back when I was an omnivore, but I hadn't been there since I became vegetarian and then vegan. I always preferred their food to the food at some of the other more expensive Italian places. Anyway, today's meal was very good. I will definitely go there again and get this meal. In fact, I am sitting here at home right now finishing up that Lemon Ice as I type this stuff up in my blog. So if you're vegan, and you need a decent fast food option sometime, I think Fazoli's would be a really good choice.

After receiving their e-mail reply, I noticed that there was a PDF file on their website which lists the ingredients in all of their food items (can you believe that they put fish in the honey mustard salad dressing?). There was only one thing on there that caught my attention, the fact that there was sodium stearoyl lactylate in their breadsticks. Now, if you've done any reading on the internet on this topic, then you know that this ingredient can be animal derived or plant derived. Normally, if it wasn't specified, I would assume that it was animal derived just to be safe. But judging from their response to my question, including knowing that the croutons on the salad were not vegan, makes me think that they know that theirs is not derived from animals. So I ate the breadsticks today, assuming that the sodium stearoyl lactylate was plant derived. They said in their e-mail to write back if I had any more questions, so I will probably fire one off to them just to ask about that and verify that the breadsticks really are vegan.

Well, that's it for Friday. I am actually stuffed after eating all of that. It was quite a bit more food than I normally can fit into the lunchbox. I thought it was a pretty good deal too. It only ended up being $6.65 for everything.

I'll be back with the lunchbox next week. Have a GREAT weekend and I'll see everybody on Monday.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Chik'n Sandwich & Fries

Well, with my last four lunchboxes requiring a good amount of cooking on my part, I decided to take it a little bit easy today and rely on some of the vegan food items filling my freezer these days. I like to cook, but it is nice to take a break sometime and use food products that are already prepared. Of course you pay the price by consuming higher amounts of things like fat, simple carbs and sodium, but I think it's okay to eat these things sometimes, just not every single day like I used to.

Also, don't forget that the pictures of my lunchbox are now interactive. If you put your pointer over each item in the lunchbox, a little text box should pop up and tell you what each one is. You don't need to click, unless you want to, and then you will see a larger version of the picture, but for the text box descriptions just move your pointer over each compartment and stop. If anyone has any browser problems with this, please let me know. I hope I did everything right. It feels kind of funny to me, moving the pointer around on the lunchbox and having different things pop up. It almost feels like I'm actually playing with my lunch. Oh well, I washed my hands so it's okay.

Today I just brought a Boca Spicy Chik'n Patty on a storebought whole wheat bun. I haven't had time lately to make my own buns again. I really need to do that. Also, some of you might be interested in this. The last time I had a Boca product on here, someone pointed out in the comments section of the blog that their products DO contain GMOs. I know that's a really big issue for a lot of people, and there are many who refuse to consume any type of genetically modified soybeans. I have to pick my battles though, and I'm not perfect, so right now the animal rights issue outweighs the GMO issue for me. I DO think it's important, and as soon as I can locate a vegan "chicken" patty which doesn't contain GMOs I will immediately switch. The bummer though is that I am probably prolonging the wait for such a product by supporting a product which DOES use them. Well, like everything else, I see both sides of this issue and could sit and go back and forth all day. I totally understand people who boycott these products, but for me, a fairly new vegan, this product which enables me to continue to be happy with what I am eating while not contributing to the death of innocent animals, is an important tool in helping me stay vegan. DANG IT! Why can't they just use non-GMOs. CURSES! I'm writing a letter! And if anyone knows of an alternative product please let me know.

Okay, enough talk about that dang Chik'n patty. I also put in some Ore-Ida french fries that I baked in the oven. Then I made some broccoli slaw using some broccoli slaw mix that I picked up in the produce section of the grocery store and mixed with some Grapeseed Oil Vegenaise, apple cider vinegar and celery seeds (instead of sugar, as suggested by a helpful reader in the comments section of this blog. THANKS!). And if you notice, I didn't bring any Vegenaise to put on my sandwich like I normally do because I figured I was getting enough of it in my slaw.

For dessert I just threw in a Cherry Pie Larabar. As you know I am addicted to them. They were on sale this week at the grocery store too. Woo-hoo! Needless to say, I stocked up.

Well, that does it for Thursday. I am still thinking about tomorrow's lunch. On the one hand, I've got just a little bit of that homemade seitan left over that I need to use up NOW. On the other hand, I was thinking about doing a FAST FOOD FRIDAY since I normally only have to work half a day on Friday. Hmmmmm... I guess I'll decide tonight.

Thanks for checking in and have a great day. See you on Friday.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Seitan & Mushroom Fajitas

Well, I warned you that you might see the homemade seitan that I made this weekend again, and here it is. For these delicious fajitas, I simply sliced up about a pound of the seitan I made using the recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and cooked it in a skillet with a bag of frozen onions & 3 pepper medley, a couple of packets of storebought fajita seasoning (carefully checked the ingredients to make sure there was no beef fat or whey or anything else snuck in), and a can of mushrooms. That's it.

I thought about assembling a couple of fajitas and then wrestling with them to try and fit them into the lunchbox, but then I had a better idea. I'm not sure if this has been done before over on Vegan Lunch Box or over at the Laptop Lunch FLICKR Group, but I just put the fajita "stuffing" in the container and then laid two tortillas out flat inside of the lunchbox lid (they fit perfectly). After I finished packing the rest of the lunchbox, I simply covered all four containers with a piece of Glad wrap (so nothing would get on the tortillas) and then closed the lid. It all fit, and I didn't have to struggle to squeeze two fajitas into one of those plastic containers. It's probably been done before and I just haven't seen it. But if YOU haven't seen it, it's definitely a good way to pack something that goes on tortillas rather than filling them and then trying to make them fit.

For the rest of today's lunch, I brought some fat-free vegetarian refried beans that just came out of a can. I like them a little thinned out with some soymilk.

Then I packed some chips & salsa using some of the new Tostitos Multigrain Chips that they seem to have been advertising the whiz out of here lately, and some homemade Jericho Salsa that I made using a recipe from Cafe Max & Rosie's Vegetarian Cooking with Health and Spirit. This is a really good cookbook that I picked up at a bookstore over in Asheville, NC. The sad thing is that Cafe Max & Rosie's was a vegetarian restaurant that was actually located there in Asheville, but I believe it is closed down now. I could be wrong. I believe there are at least one or two people who read my blog who are from Asheville or Weaverville who might be able to clear this up and let us know more about what happened to the restaurant.

Anyway, the salsa is very delicious and came from the TOP SECRET portion of the book, which are actual recipes that were used at the restaurant. You know, the ones that people asked for all the time but couldn't get. I think that is so cool when restaurants share some of their famous recipes. But again, good salsa, excellent!

Well, that does it for Wednesday. Based on the responses about the fast food thing, yeah, I think a week straight would probably not be good. It would definitely be unhealthy, and probably get boring too. So I guess I'll just start documenting some fast food choices occasionally, like I have been doing with some of the local places. I've got a business trip coming up at the end of this month, and there may be some of it worked in there because this will be my first business trip as a vegan and there's no telling what I will resort to eating. I've done this trip before as a vegetarian, but not as a vegan. So that should be interesting. I will be going to Pittsburgh, so if anyone knows of any restaurant that a hungry vegan should not miss in that city, please let me know.

Thanks for stopping in. Have a great day and I'll see you tomorrow!

P.S. I just added the coolest thing to this post. I hope this works for everybody. If you go back up to the picture of today's lunchbox and move your pointer around on the picture, when you stop moving over each compartment, text should pop up and tell you what each thing is as you move and stop over each different item. You don't have to click or anything, unless you want to, in which case you will just see a large version of the pic. But just moving the pointer around the small pic should bring up automatic little text boxes which tell you what is in each compartment. I'll probably continue to do this from now on, unless it causes problems with some people's browsers or something like that. Nothing groundbreaking. I just thought it was cool!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Beans n Taters

It seems like just about the time something drops off of the PREVIOUS POSTS section over there on the left hand side of the screen, I start getting a hankerin' for it again. Therefore, today's lunch is Beans n Taters, once more from a couple of cans of pinto beans and great northern beans. I know I should, and probably will, start cooking beans from scratch so I can control, well actually eliminate, the high sodium content. But I've still got quite a few cans in the pantry though that I need to use up, so it will most likely be a few more meals before I start preparing this meal from scratch. Speaking of dried beans, most of you probably already know about this website, but just in case you don't, I highly recommend the Bulk Foods website. They have everything like beans, nuts, spices, etc. Just about anything that you would find in the bulk bins at the health food store. Their prices are very good, especially compared to small local health food stores. Sometimes you might have to really go up in quantity to see a substantial discount from buying it local, but depending on how much of a certain item you use, it might be worth it.

The red container holds some potatoes fried up in a skillet with onions, No-Salt, pepper and rosemary. Then the small containers are filled with some sauerkraut and a piece of vegan cornbread. I had to chop the end of it off to get it to fit in the container, and even then it was sticking up a little bit too high. The cornbread is to crumble on my beans though, so when I closed the lunchbox lid I didn't worry about squashing it a little bit.

I don't guess there's too much more to say about this meal. I've had it before on here and there's not really anything complicated about. So, to finish today's post let me throw an idea out there and see what you guys & gals think about it...

Since my website is geared toward adult vegans trying to eat vegan for lunch every day at work, I was thinking about maybe doing a fast food challenge one week where I eat out at major chain restaurants every day and document the few vegan options that are out there. On the one hand, I think this would be a good idea because I know I have found myself stranded in a fast food restaurant for lunch for one reason or another and have lamented over what to get because I wasn't adequately prepared to eat there. I have also spent countless hours on the internet reading up about the various limited choices at most restaurants. So I think a week of documented fast-food choices might come in handy for some people.

On the other hand, I think it is a bad idea because we all know that most of that stuff is really not that good for you. There is also the issue of even supporting the companies that produce this food because of the enormous amounts of animal suffering & death that they are responsible for. So then you get into the whole "don't support them at all" vs "how else will they ever change and offer more vegetarian & vegan options if people don't ask for it and order it" argument.

Moral arguments aside, I do find myself occasionally resorting to fast food for a meal because of travel, or some change in schedule that makes preparing or consuming a homemade vegan meal impossible. I think a week of posts discussing vegan options from some "mainstream" restaurants might be handy for some people new to veganism (like myself) or those considering it and wondering if they'll ever be able to eat out with their friends ever again.

What do you all think? If I did do it, the first challenge, of course, would be to come up with 5 restaurants to eat at. There are a couple, which shall remain nameless, that I most certainly will not eat at simply because of their track records on animal treatment and continuously offering, for lack of better word, crap. There are some places though, that really do have a few semi-healthy vegan options, and I think it might be good to document them and get the word out about them.

I don't know. I can see both sides of the argument. Plus, I don't know if I should really do it all in one week, or just spread it out like I do eating at local restaurants with a visit to a fast food place just every now and then. That would probably make more sense. I guess I'll just continue to think about it, and see what everybody here thinks.

Thanks for checking in today. See everybody on Wednesday!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Jerk Seitan with Coconut Jasmine Rice

Well, it kind of ended up being a VwaV weekend as I tried two new recipes from my all-time favorite cookbook, Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I was invited to a Kentucky Derby party on Saturday, so I whipped up some Seitan & Herb Stuffed Mushrooms to take as an appetizer. Before I could make them though, I had to make my own homemade seitan from the recipe in the cookbook. It was a little time consuming, but the mushrooms ended up being really yummy and I think they were all gone in less than 10 minutes from the time that they were uncovered at the party. Everyone was asking about them and wondering what was in them. I can definitely say that they were a hit.

Then last night for dinner (and therefore for lunch today) I made the Jerk Seitan with Coconut Jasmine Rice. It's not a hard recipe. Basically all you do is slice up a couple of cups of your homemade seitan and then marinate it in a homemade jerk sauce and then cook it all with a bunch of onions and bell peppers. The cookbook just called for green peppers but me, being the lazy vegan that I am, opted to not even bother with slicing up a fresh onion and bell pepper and instead just dumped in a whole bag of chopped onion & 3 pepper blend from the freezer section of the grocery store. Everyone probably already knows about this stuff (I was probably the last one to know), but I just discovered this stuff a few months ago at Kroger. It's just a big bag of frozen chopped onions and red, yellow and green bell peppers. All the work is already done. The whole bag is usually on sale for 0.99 or something like that. They also have bags of just chopped onion and just chopped green pepper that are so convenient for keeping on hand in the freezer for whenever you just need a little bit of each and don't want to spend all that time chopping.

I was amazed when I tasted this dish last night. It is honestly one of the best things I have ever made. The seitan is just like slices of steak, and the jerk sauce is delicious. I've never made fancy rice like this either, but oh my gosh is it good. It's jasmine rice cooked up with some coconut milk. There was also a cinnamon stick in there while it cooked. Toward the end of the cooking you add some fresh lime zest and then you top it with some unsweetened coconut that you toast yourself right on the stovetop. This stuff is really delicious. This would be a really good vegan dish to take to a dinner or potluck if you needed to contribute something. I can't imagine anyone eating this and not loving it. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

I brought a lot of the seitan & rice today, so I really didn't need too much more. I just tossed in some raw walnuts and the last of the raspberries that I got at the store last week. They probably wouldn't have made it too many more days in the fridge, so I thought it would be best to put them in the lunchbox today and get rid of them before they ruin.

This was my first time making my own seitan from scratch. It's really not hard. It just takes a little time, but if you do it on the weekend you can end up with a big batch of it to use all week long in who knows what kind of recipes. And it's a WHOLE lot cheaper than buying it already made at the store, and tastier too! You will probably see one or two more uses of seitan this week in the lunchbox as I try and use up my stash. You can freeze it for later use, but I don't think I will have any problem using all of mine up this week, one way or another, either in dinners or lunches, or both.

Well, that's it for Monday. I didn't make it to the Thai place again Friday night, but I am seriously considering trying some Thai food at home very soon. Maybe tonight. Maybe for lunch tomorrow. Who knows?

Thanks for checking in. Have a GREAT Monday and I'll see you tomorrow!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Whole Wheat Pasta with Sun-dried Tomatoes

Today's lunch was really a last minute decision. Yesterday, I already had in mind that I was going to bring some type of pasta for lunch today. My original plan was either some type of pesto, or maybe something with olive oil, garlic & spinach. But I was sitting at home watching television after work and I was watching one of the shows that I like on Food Network called Barefoot Contessa. It's true that I won't eat most of the things that Ina Garten fixes since they contain meat, eggs or dairy, but I still enjoy watching her show and some of the recipes can be easily veganized, like the one she made yesterday. I saw her making Pasta with Sun-dried Tomatoes and I thought, "Mmmmm... that looks good." So I went into the kitchen and made it myself with just a couple of alterations. It was quick and very easy.

I pretty much followed her recipe except I made the following substitutions. First of all, to make the dish a little bit healthier I used Ronzoni Whole-Wheat Pasta. I didn't have a fresh tomato to dice so I just opened up a can of diced tomatoes, drained and rinsed them and threw them in. I didn't have any red wine vinegar, so I just used balsamic vinegar instead. And I, of course, didn't put the cheese in that she did. Instead, I used some of the Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet Mozzarella and some vegan parmesan sprinkles that I had picked up at the health food store (be careful when buying this and make sure it says VEGAN right on the bottle, because there is another bottle out there that just says VEGGIE, made by the same company, that contains casein). Other than that, it's pretty much Ina's recipe. I tasted some last night after I made it and it was delicious.

I also brought some seasoned yellow squash, onions and red peppers that just came from the freezer section of the grocery store. This will probably be the only item from today's lunch that I will reheat at work in the microwave. I think the pasta might be best served cold.

And then for a couple of raw things I added some cashews and some fresh raspberries that I snagged on sale at the store.

So I guess that's lunch for Friday. Thanks for reading the blog this week. Have yourself a great weekend and I'll see everyone on Monday!

P.S. Here are a couple of tips for reading this blog that I thought I might post in case some people don't know. Feel free to click on the pictures in this blog, to open a larger version, and on any of the links that appear in my write-ups. I always format my links to open up in a new window, so when you click on something a new window will pop-up and show you the link. When you're done with it, just close that window and you are right back where you were in my blog. I like it better when links open in new windows, it makes it easier to keep your place in the original blog. Also, depending on how you discovered this blog, you may or may not know that the easiest way to get here, if you don't have it bookmarked, is to just type into your browser. It will bring you here to this same address, it's just a little easier to remember.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Out to Lunch @ TOMY THAI

Well, I finally got a chance to eat at the new Thai restaurant in town today and I can sum it up in one word... EXCELLENT! I have heard lots of people at work talk about it and how good they thought the food was, but I hadn't gotten around to trying it myself. I don't know if you remember or not, but I tried to eat at Tomy Thai once before with a small group from work, but when we got there we discovered that we had come on the only day of the week that they are closed, so we ended up having to go somewhere else. I didn't let that happen this time. I made sure I went on a day when I knew they would be open and I was the first person through the door when they flipped the sign from CLOSED to OPEN.

When my server came to take my drink order, I informed her that I was vegan and might need some help in choosing something appropriate from the menu since a lot of the sauces might contain fish sauce. She said that she would ask the chef about it while she got my drink. Well, a minute or so later she came back with my drink and the head chef came out with her! She introduced him and he helped me pick something from the menu. He said that he could make almost anything from the menu and make it without the fish sauce. The first thing I picked though, which I had heard about at work, was not a good choice. I asked him about the Drunken Noodles and he said that the sauce that goes on that already has a small amount of fish sauce in it, so there wouldn't really be any way to leave it out without just leaving the sauce off altogether.

My next choice, which is what I was planning on getting anyway, before I heard about the Drunken Noodles being tasty, was E5 on the menu, Phat Phrik Khing - (Spicy String Bean). It was stir-fried fresh green beans and bell peppers in something called Phrik Khing curry paste. I got it with some steamed tofu added to it, and it also came with rice, which I asked about just to make sure that they cooked it with water and not chicken broth or anything like that. I don't know if this dish would normally have fish sauce added to it, but when I asked the chef about the possibility of getting this as a vegan option he said that E5 was a very good choice for that and that it would be very easy for him to make that vegan. So that's what I got and it was DELICIOUS! It was very spicy, but not too hot. It was just right in my opinion. You could tell that the vegetables were very fresh, and the tofu, after it had soaked up all the flavors from all those spices, was just yummy. I will definitely order this again. I might try making something similar at home someday too, for the lunchbox. But I will certainly continue to eat the restaurant version and help support this awesome new local restaurant. In fact, I think I might go there again tomorrow night for dinner.

So to sum it up, lunch today was excellent. It was no trouble at all to ask for something vegan and get it. My server was excellent and the chef was extremely helpful. If you're ever in Tennessee and pass through the town of Kingsport, I highly recommend dining at Tomy Thai.

Thanks for stopping by. I'll see you back here tomorrow with the lunchbox.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Vegan Cheeseburger

The awesome weather here has got me thinking about cookouts again, so for today's lunch, I made myself a vegan cheeseburger by taking a storebought whole wheat hamburger bun (I didn't have time last night to make my own) and then topping it with an Amy's Texas Veggie Burger and a slice of Tofutti American Soy Cheese. I just tried the Amy's burger for the first time the other day and I really like them. It says on the label that it has barbecue flavor, but it really kind of reminds me more of a Sloppy Joe. Anyway, they taste very good and the walnuts in there really give it a nice texture that you can sink your teeth into. The Tofutti soy cheese is also the best vegan replacement for American cheese slices that I have been able to find. Unfortunately, soy cheese is one of those things that you have to be really careful about because a lot of them, even though they are labeled as soy cheese and even lactose free, will still contain casein, which comes from milk, which makes them NOT VEGAN. Tofutti doesn't though, so it's all good.

In the red container I've got some lightly steamed broccoli, green beans, onions & mushrooms. This was just some "Asian" blend of vegetables that I picked up in the freezer section of the local grocery store.

I also included some garlic-stuffed olives that I found on sale at the store. Mezzetta's Napa Valley Bistro Garlic Stuffed Olives are a yummy treat. I only put five in the lunchbox since they contain so much sodium, and aren't cheap. They are the very large size Queen olives though, so it's probably about the right amount to put in a lunch.

For dessert, I threw in some fresh blackberries that I also found on sale at the grocery store (they still weren't inexpensive though). I really need to start getting out of the house early on the weekend and start going to the local farmer's market to buy my produce. There is also a fairly large flea market not too far from my house which should be getting started up right about now. You can usually find some pretty good deals on fruits & vegetables there too. Of course, if I really wanted to get the freshest berries that I could, for the lowest cost, there are several berry farms around here where you can go and pay and then just take your own containers (or use theirs) and pick your own berries. Maybe I should try that this year too. Mmmmmm... blackberries are so good.

Well, that does it for Wednesday. Thanks for stopping by and I'll see you tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Chik'n Salad Pita

Today I've got a really simple, and really delicious lunch. It taught me a thing or two about packing lunch in the Laptop Lunches lunchbox too. Homemade Chik'n Salad on a pita is so tasty, but at first I wasn't sure how to best pack and transport it. On my first try, I put the Chik'n Salad into the pita and then tried placing it directly into the lunchbox. That really didn't work that well. The stuffing started falling out all over the place, plus it really just didn't look that good, and that's important when you are a crazy person who takes a picture of your lunch every day for a website. Hehehe. I just didn't think that it would transport that well like that.

So, after a little experimenting, I ended up just laying a pita in the lunchbox by itself and then spooning a bunch of the Chik'n Salad into one of the containers. I thought about putting two pitas in there, and you could most certainly do that, but with Summer time coming up and vacations on the horizon, I probably should be cutting back on calories wherever I can, and eating only one pita instead of two will save me a few. There's more than enough Chik'n Salad there to fill one pita. And whatever is left over will be delicious eaten on its own because it's almost really like a fruit salad, with just a little mock chicken thrown in.

The Chik'n Salad is made from a few Morningstar Farms Meal Starters Chik'n Strips, onion, celery, chopped apples, grapes and walnuts. It's all mixed together with a little Grapeseed Oil Vegenaise. YUM! I would normally eat this on some bread, maybe with lettuce and tomato, but I used a pita this time just to be a little different. It's more interesting than seeing a bun in the lunchbox every day.

I threw in some raw carrots. I always have carrots in the fridge and they really come in handy for packing your lunch, especially when you've got that one last container that you can't figure out what to fill with. Carrots to the rescue again. For dessert, I packed a Lemon Bar Larabar. I think this is a fairly new flavor, because I haven't seen it before. I have, therefore, never tasted it before, so I am looking quite forward to peeling this baby open after lunch today. In case you've never heard me blabber on before, I just think that Larabars are the greatest thing for keeping yummy raw vegan food handy for whenever you need a snack. And they make great desserts for lunch too.

Well, that does it for Tuesday. Today's lunch is kinda' fun just because it's packed a little differently than what I normally do. That's one of the cool things about the Laptop Lunches lunchbox. You can move containers around, and even leave them out, making up all sorts of different configurations that really help to make your lunch just a little bit more interesting. I can honestly say that since becoming vegan, and since I started packing my own lunch (because you almost have to if you want to eat something vegan for lunch every day besides a wilted salad in a restaurant) my lunches are much more fun and interesting than they ever were as an omnivore eating the same old unhealthy fast food day after day, week after week. And they're not only healthier, they're cheaper too.

Thanks for checking in. Have a great Tuesday and I'll see everybody tomorrow!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Teriyaki Tofu, Brown Rice & Vegetables

Okay, I went overboard a little bit with the green beans. They are contained in 3/4 of today's lunch items. If you're going to overdo something though, I guess you could do a lot worse than green beans. To start things off, I packed an Amy's Teriyaki Bowl, made with organic tofu, brown rice & vegetables. You can find these just about anywhere. I've seen them at the health food store, but I just picked mine up in the freezer section of my local grocery store. It's obviously something that you could make quite easily, if you have the free time. If you're pressed for time though, it's an easy way to get some good food into your lunchbox. I've had this dish before and really liked it. Amy's has numerous frozen vegan entrees, and it seems like there are more and more every time that I go to the store. I only recently noticed that they are now doing their roasted vegetable pizza in pocket form, like a Hot Pocket. I might have to snag one of those for the lunchbox one day soon.

I threw in some steamed seasoned green beans (again, from the freezer section of the grocery store), as well as a small container of 3 bean salad, the cold vinegar & sugar stuff. I haven't eaten any of that in a very long time, and I really like it. So when I saw a jar of it in the store last week I had to grab it.

I finished filling the lunchbox with some raw walnuts. As you can see in the picture, there's a pretty good amount of them in there today. I normally wouldn't put that many into my lunch, but I planned on maybe snacking on them a little bit this morning, which I have.

This is a fairly simple lunch and there really wasn't much work involved in putting it together since I relied on the freezer section for my entree. Tomorrow's lunch, if I end up having what I am planning on making, will require a little more work on my part this evening. Sometimes I like to spend time cooking and preparing things for lunch, but sometimes it is nice to buy pre-made stuff, especially if it is minimally processed and organic, like a lot of the Amy's Kitchen meals are. I also tried one of their veggie burgers this weekend and I really liked it. It will probably also be appearing in the lunchbox in the near future, and it gave me some ideas for some modifications I could try with my favorite homemade veggie burger recipe. There's even a segment about Amy's Kitchen that airs from time to time on The Food Network. It was on again just this past weekend. I think it's part of an episode of "Unwrapped".

Well, I guess that's about it for Monday. Thanks a lot for stopping by. Have a great day and I'll see everybody on Tuesday.

Friday, April 28, 2006

TGIF! - Barbecue "Rib" Sandwich

I am so glad it's Friday. For today's lunch I packed a vegan version of one of my favorite really bad foods from my carnivore days. It's a sandwich that appears from time to time at a certain restaurant, who shall remain nameless, but it starts with Mc. HA! I used to really like eating the barbecue rib sandwich there, except for the times that I would chomp down on a big glob of fat, gristle or something else unidentifiable. Lucky for us, Gardenburger has produced these Barbecue Riblets that taste just like the non-vegan kind. I think this is one of their more popular products, and if you try it you will see why. I originally planned this lunch thinking that I had some whole wheat hot dog buns left over, which hold the riblet perfectly, but after I got it cooked up I discovered that I did not. So I ended up cutting the thing in half and putting it on a whole wheat hamburger bun. I threw the other half in the fridge and I might eat it later today for a snack.

I had some scrambled tofu (from the recipe in Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz) in the fridge from the other night so I threw it into the red container. I make this stuff every week and I almost always have some hanging out in the fridge. Sometimes I heat it up before I eat it, but it is also very delicious when you just eat it cold. It's one of those things that has so many spices in it that the flavors just get better the day after you make it, and then even better the day after that. It's good stuff.

For a couple of raw things, I threw in some trusty carrots and some homemade trail mix containing walnuts, cashews, raisins, dried cranberries and some bananas that I dehydrated myself. This stuff is so good, I could just sit down and eat a huge bowl of it. I have great big bags of the individual ingredients from the bulk section of the health food store sitting in my cabinets at home, so you can probably expect to see a lot more of this stuff in the near future.

Well, that's all for today. Hopefully this weekend will be really nice and I can get some quality time in on the boat at the lake this weekend. I think that my favorite place to hang out on the water, Sonny's Marina, is opening this weekend. I don't think they have anything that I can eat there, but that won't stop me from pulling the boat in and drinking a pitcher of beer while I listen to the live music. ;o)

Thanks for stopping by and have a SUPER weekend! See you on Monday.

Thursday, April 27, 2006


Well, a coworker and I went to a local elementary school today to judge a science fair so I didn't bring the lunchbox with me. It took us about 45 minutes this morning to drive to the school (I know, local?) and we got there about 9AM. It took us until almost 1PM to finish all the judging. There were lots of interesting science projects, and it's always fun to listen to kids (kindergarten through 4th grade) explain scientific things to you. I was actually quite shocked because it was two kids in kindergarten that impressed us the most with their knowledge of their project and the subject matter that they dealt with. Anyway, when all that was done, we stopped by Rush Street Grill for lunch on our way back to work. It's a local restaurant, so unless you live close to me I don't guess there's any use in searching for one. They have some really good food. I used to eat there a lot back when I was vegetarian because they actually have quite a few vegetarian options. Trying to eat vegan there presents a few additional challenges, but it is very doable. It's one of the easier places in town to eat vegan at, which I why I still like to frequent it as often as I can. It is a beautiful day here in Tennessee and they have a really nice outdoor dining area, which is where we sat. The main lunch crowd had already left and gone back to work, so it ended up being really nice.

I ordered what I usually like to eat there, which you will see in a moment, but I opted to replace the fries that normally come with it with a nice salad. First of all, besides just not really being that healthy, I assume most places probably just fry their french fries in the same oil that they fry everything else in, including frozen items containing cheese or animal parts, so that right there probably makes most restaurant french fries NOT VEGAN. There are a couple of places where I will eat the fries, but only because I happen to know that they use a dedicated fryer and oil for their potatoes. I did have to specify that I didn't want any cheese, bacon bits or croutons on the salad. In other words, I said I wanted "just vegetables". I thought I might have trouble with the dressings since a lot of them contain mayonnaise, and I believe even most Italian dressings contain parmesan cheese, but they had some yummy vinegar & oil which arrived in separate containers and was really tasty. It was a good salad.

Then it was time for the main course. I got the Grilled Portabella Sandwich. It's a big portabella mushroom cap which is grilled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It's topped with some grilled onions and roasted peppers, spinach leaves, tomato and onion. It normally comes with some cheese on it too, along with some basil mayo, but leaving those two things off, like I did, make this delicious sandwich vegan. It's a little messy eating it, because the mushroom is SO juicy, but it is very delicious.

Eating this sandwich actually got me stirred up again because I have been thinking a lot about all the cookouts that will be coming up this Summer at the lake and at people's houses. I had decided yesterday, after eating that hot dog, that vegan hot dogs would probably be the easiest option for me to take to cookouts so that I could eat something I like and still fit in with everyone else. I thought that might be better than a veggie burger since my favorite veggie burger really doesn't try to copy the taste of meat, it just has its own delicious flavor, but it would probably be hard to cook on a grill without it falling apart. But today, while I was eating that grilled mushroom, I was just thinking that honestly, that was the most meat-like thing that I had eaten since I became a vegan. So I may be taking some big portabella mushrooms to cookouts this season. Of course, there's then all kinds of other things you can worry about when cooking out, like keeping my food away from the meat on the grill, don't touch my mushroom with that spatula you just handled meat with, etc. But I'll cross those bridges when I come to them.

Actually, just a bunch of grilled vegetables like squash and zucchini, like I had at Cootie Brown's a while back, on a sandwich would also be good for a cookout. And speaking of cookouts, I got an e-mail reply from Texas Pete's about their Hot Dog Chili Sauce that I loved so much but had started to wonder whether it was vegan or not since it contained "natural flavor". Well, I got a quick reply from a lady named Becky Michael, who is a Quality Assurance Manager, and she said: "I am pleased to tell you that sauce is indeed suitable for vegetarians and vegans. The natural flavor in the chili is a reactive flavor on a soy oil base. There are no animal sources in the product." Yipee! I really like that stuff on vegan hot dogs, and it is very inexpensive. I'm actually surprised that they don't try to market it to vegetarians and vegans. I don't know if you've ever noticed it in the store where you live or not, but it comes in a can and is always over there beside all the canned meats like tuna, potted meat, SPAM and all that stuff. The LAST place you would expect to find a vegan hot dog chili. There are usually several brands of this meatless, usually fat-free, chili sauce lined up, but every other one that I have ever seen, even the fat-free ones, contain beef fat in the list of ingredients. Texas Pete is the only one I have been able to find that contains absolutely no animal products whatsoever. And guess what, it tastes good.

Well, that was lunch for Thursday. It was really nice eating outside, and missing the lunch crowd. Plus my food from Rush Street was really, really delicious. Definitely a place I would recommend eating if you ever find yourself in Kingsport, Tennessee.

I'll be back with the lunchbox tomorrow. See you then, and have a GREAT day.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Vegan Hot Dog

Okay, I know there's nothing super healthy about today's lunch, but there are a couple of reasons it ended up like this. One was that I was short on time last night and didn't have as much time as I would have liked to have spent preparing something for lunch today. And the second thing was just the fact that I had a burger yesterday and it really got me craving a hot dog. So there you go. This meal could actually be a lot more unhealthy than it is, especially if it was the non-vegan version, so at least I made the healthy choices where I could.

For the hot dog, I used a lite whole wheat hot dog bun to reduce the number of calories and simple carbs and increase the fiber content. I used Light Life's Smart Dogs for the hot dog and some Light Life Smart Chili to top it with. Both of these items are fat free, so that's good. I put the chili in the small blue container to keep it separated from the hot dog until I eat it so it wouldn't make the bun all soggy. On a side note, I used to use Texas Pete's Hot Dog Chili Sauce until I started wondering about one ingredient. All of the other non-meat cheap chili sauces that they sell at the grocery store contain beef fat. Texas Pete's is the only one I have found that lists no animal ingredients on the label. There was one ingredient though, "natural flavor" that caught my attention. I sent the company an e-mail and I will let you know what I hear back. I really hope that the "natural flavor" is referring to spices or something like that. We'll see.

No big salad today, I just went straight for the fries. They are, however, lower in fat because I prefer to bake them instead of fry them.

The small container up top holds some store-brand vegetarian (and vegan) baked beans. Some fresh chopped onion was added at home to give it a little more flavor. I forgot how much I liked baked beans. It's been so long since I had some. They are quite tasty. Yum. I noticed a recipe in Sarah Kramer's La Dolce Vegan last night that was some kind of spread for crackers that was made from baked beans. It sounded really interesting, and according to her it is very tasty. I might need to make it sometime.

To finish filling the lunchbox, I just threw in some raw walnuts, cashews and raisins again.

I was nowhere near my goal of trying to keep my lunchbox 50% raw today, or even at least 50% non-processed food. It's a meal I was craving though, that I haven't had yet this year, and it's vegan.

Besides trying to eat healthier, I also like to show people who aren't vegan, who might be considering it, that giving up animal products doesn't mean that you can't still eat the foods you like. There are so many products out there now, no matter what you like to eat, there is probably a vegan version of it. Yes, it may be highly processed, but it will, most likely, still be better for you than the non-vegan version. And it will DEFINITELY be better for the animals.

I will probably be eating out tomorrow because I am supposed to go and spend the first half of the day judging a science fair at a local elementary school. I did it last year and it took until something like 1PM just to get done. There were a LOT of science projects and you have to speak to each child individually and let them tell you about their project. I will probably just eat out at a restaurant on my way back to work. It's a pretty long drive (about 30-45 minutes I think) from work to this school, so it will be a lot later in the day tomorrow when I finally get to post. I WILL, however, be doing a post and including pics of what I order. If I get to eat where I am planning on eating, mmmmmmmmmm, it will be so good. And no, I am not planning on eating at Cootie Brown's again, not that I would mind, but that's not what I am planning. Just check back in later tomorrow afternoon if you wanna' see what I've been up to.

Thanks for checking in today. Have a great day and I'll see you tomorrow afternoon!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

VwaV Veggie Burger

I was in a veggie burger mood today. I've had a few different types of veggie burgers on here before. If you look back through the archives you can see storebought frozen veggie burgers, veggie burgers made from pre-packaged mixes and homemade veggie burgers made from scratch. Obviously, the best tasting and most satisfying veggie burgers are those that are homemade, but they are a little more work. I made a couple of substitutions this time in my favorite recipe, however, that worked out really well and let me make my all-time favorite veggie burger with a little less hassle.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, the veggie burger from Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz is the best veggie burger that I know of. I am always amazed when I photograph this thing and then look at the picture. It looks just like a hamburger. It doesn't taste like meat though, it has its own flavor and is DELICIOUS. There were just a couple of things with the recipe though that kept me from making it as often as I might like to. One was that it calls for a small amount of tomato paste, something like 3 Tbsp. Well, I don't have one of those metallic tubes of tomato paste where you could just squeeze some out and then put the lid back on and store it. I always had to open a little can of it, get 3 Tbsp. out and then put the rest in some plasticware in the fridge where it would sit for a week or so until I finally threw it out. I HATE doing that. The recipe also calls for Dijon mustard, which is one of those things that I sometimes have and sometimes don't. So I was thinking about making this recipe and realized that I didn't have any Dijon mustard right now, and the fact that I would have to waste 1/2 a can of tomato paste to make these burgers when all of a sudden it just hit me. Why not just use ketchup and regular mustard? The more I thought about it the more I thought it would work fine because those two condiments are actually the base of most Sloppy Joe sauces and that's kinda' the taste that these burgers have, kinda' like a Sloppy Joe.

So anyway, I made the things, with the substitutions and they came out just fine. It's much easier to just squirt ketchup and mustard into the mix than fool with opening a can of tomato paste, and then throwing half of it away and having to dig around in a jar of Dijon mustard. The burgers are delicious, as usual, and I packed one for the lunchbox just the way I like it, on a whole wheat bun (top of the bun is removed for photography purposes) with pickles and Grapeseed Oil Vegenaise (in the little blue container). YUMMY!

Again, trying to eat healthier and cut down on the processed foods, instead of packing a large container full of storebought french fries, I opted for a smaller serving of homemade herb roasted potatoes and filled the larger container with some steamed green beans. For dessert, I didn't have any ready-made trail mix, so I just mixed some raw cashews, walnuts and raisins that I had lying around in separate bags. I have gotten into a real habit here lately of snacking on nuts, and that's a good thing. Looking back at some of my earlier lunches, it's hard to believe that I was eating so many cookies, and brownies and muffins. I still like those things, but I certainly don't need to be eating them every day in every meal. Sheesh!

I'm trying the dehydrator again, as we speak. I had several bananas which were getting close to being too ripe, so I sliced them all up using a mandolin slicer and put them into the food dehydrator. It ran last night while I slept and I checked on them this morning. They had dried a lot, but were not quite completely dry yet, so I turned the dehydrator off so they wouldn't dry out too much while I am at work today. I will examine them when I get home and see if I need to dry them anymore before storing them in some plasticware. Those would be good added to the nuts & raisins that I brought for lunch today.

Well, that's lunch for Tuesday. I'm really looking forward to eating my veggie burger. They are SO good. If you haven't got that cookbook yet, I highly recommend it. The veggie burgers are really good, and so is everything else. Honestly, I have yet to make a recipe from it that I didn't like.

Thanks for stopping by today. Have a good one and I'll see everybody tomorrow!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Barbecue Chik'n Pizza

I ended up bringing pizza again for lunch today, but this time I made it Barbecue Chik'n Pizza just to have something a little bit different. I remember, back when I was an omnivore, the first time I had pizza like this at a California Pizza Kitchen. I was hooked on it the first time I tried it. Luckily, it's really easy to make a vegan version of this yummy dish.

I didn't make my crust homemade this time because I discovered the perfect crust for personal size pizzas already made at the grocery store. I just used a whole-wheat pita. They've got all the fiber in them, they are the perfect size for fitting into the lunchbox, and they crisp up really nice in the toaster oven when you cook them. So basically, I just took a couple of pitas and covered them with some barbecue sauce (I would imagine that most barbecue sauces are vegan, but if you were buying a brand you were unfamiliar with I would definitely check the label), some Morningstar Farms Meal Starters Chik'n Strips, chopped onion and green pepper, and finally, some Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet Mozzarella. I popped the whole thing into a 450 degree toaster oven for 7 minutes and it was done.

I packed a salad, to go along with my pizza, which is just some spicy arugula with baby spinach and some carrots thrown on top. The dressing is my usual olive oil, balsamic vinegar and sesame oil. Plus I threw in a Cherry Pie Larabar to fill the empty space and give me a little bit more raw food in today's lunch.

Speaking of raw food, I guess I am going to have to take a step back and slow down a little bit if I am going to explore the preparation of more complicated raw food dishes. My dehydrator arrived last Friday and I tried making a couple of things in it this weekend and, unfortunately, I was not too impressed. The dehydrator worked fine, it's just that what I made in it wasn't that great. I made some flax seed crackers, and I just took one bite of that and actually had to spit it out. I am pretty sure that I severely over dehydrated those, so maybe that one was my fault. Perhaps I should try another batch and actually just dehydrate them for the time called for in the recipe. I guess it's possible to dehydrate something too much huh?

I should probably switch and try to dehydrate some fruit, or make some type of raw fruit & nut cookie next. I imagine something like that would probably be quite a bit more tasty than dehydrated flax seeds or potatoes. Anyway, I won't be starting a big raw food kick today. I obviously need to experiment a lot more before I commit to something like a 100% raw diet for a week, or 30 days, or whatever. In the mean time, I am still going to try and squeeze as many raw fruits, vegetables & nuts as I can into the lunchbox every day.

I'm not sure that a lot of the people who eat a 100% raw diet all the time spend the time making those fancy things that require the dehydrator anyway. From some of the stuff I have been reading, it looks like a lot of them are just "grazers" and basically just nibble on raw fruits, vegetables and nuts lots of times during the day. Oh well, I just had this idea that I was gonna' pop some stuff in the dehydrator and get some kind of yummy snacks out of it, and it didn't quite work out that way on my first try. I will try again though.

Well, I guess that just about does it for Monday. Thanks for stopping by. Have a great day and I'll see you tomorrow.