Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Vegan Dining Out @ Crazy Tomato

Well, I ended up going out for lunch today with the whole crowd from work to celebrate a member of our group's retirement. Today was his last day so he got to pick the restaurant. Lucky for me, he picked a place that I really like. Crazy Tomato has two locations in the Tri-Cities, one in Johnson City, where I live, and one in Kingsport, where I work. The one in Kingsport is fairly new, and I actually hadn't been to it yet. I had been meaning to go soon, so this was the perfect opportunity. I like to frequent the one in Johnson City a lot when it's nice and warm outside because they have this cool outdoor dining area in the back. I just love eating outside.

The new one in Kingsport was very nice. You could tell that they had spent some money and put a lot of effort into decorating the place. Being an Italian restaurant, there are, of course, lots of things on the menu that are off-limits for vegans. But just by making careful selections, and asking for a couple of ingredient omissions, I was able to enjoy a delicious lunch and come out of there absolutely stuffed to the gills.

I started out by just ordering a Garden Salad. There were several other salad options, but all of those contained cheese and/or meat. So it was definitely the Garden Salad for me. I did ask if it had bacon bits on it, it didn't. And I did ask if it had cheese on it. My server said that they sprinkle some parmesan cheese on it, so I asked for that to be left off. That left me with just all veggies, exactly what I wanted. For the dressing I selected the Oil & Vinegar. I guess this particular one was made with Red Wine Vinegar and it was really good. I guess it's been a while since I ordered a salad in a restaurant, but this one was very delicious. And I was actually pretty full when I finished it. I probably should have stopped there, but I didn't.

For my entree I ordered an individual slice (which is really more like two slices) of their Crazy Garden Pizza. It had the usual veggie pizza ingredients; onion, green pepper, mushrooms and black olives. There was just some Olive Oil brushed on the crust and I, of course, asked them to leave the cheese off. It was very delicious, as usual. And a couple of my omnivore coworkers even commented that it looked good. It did look good, and it WAS good. I had forgotten how much I liked their pizza crust.

So that was my lunch experience for Wednesday. Demonstrating once again that being vegan doesn't mean that you have to starve when you go out to a restaurant. Of course, a little starving might have done me good since I'm trying to lose weight right now, but now that I look back on it, my entire meal was basically just vegetables except for that pizza crust and the oil in the salad dressing. So while it was a lot of food, it definitely could have been a whole lot more unhealthy, especially if it hadn't been vegan.

I may have to be extra good with the lunchbox tomorrow to make up for eating so much today. I guess we'll see...

Thanks for checking in today and I'll see everybody on Thursday.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Vegan Soft Tacos

WHEW! I just got back in from a good walk during lunch and I am worn out. We set out as soon as I got finished eating so I didn't have too much time to digest anything. I just wolfed down my lunch and then drank a bunch of water and then took off walking. That's kinda' rough on a person. Perhaps I should have walked first. Lesson learned. I've got a few minutes left here to do my blog entry, so here we go...

Today for lunch, I brought all of the fixin's needed to make a couple of delicious Vegan Soft Tacos. I just packed a couple of small flour tortillas (80 calories each) there in the lunchbox lid and then to fill them I've got some Fantastic Foods Taco "Meat". This stuff is just made from TVP and spices, so it's vegan and very delicious, in my opinion. Plus, there's practically no fat in it. The directions call for adding a couple of Tbsp. of oil when you cook it, but I never do that. I've also got some Baby Spinach leaves and some Diced Tomato. And I've actually got some Taco Sauce at work, so I didn't need to worry about packing any of that.

The main star of the show today, however, are the Refried Black Beans. These are from a recipe from the Test Kitchen of Joanna (aka joannalovesyou over on the Post Punk Kitchen). She's currently in the process of writing a great new vegan cookbook and I was lucky enough to get in on the recipe testing.

I've seen lots of pics from other people who have been testing her recipes and they have all looked delicious and her food has received rave reviews. I don't think I've ever seen anyone say anything other than that they absolutely love her food. This recipe was no exception. It's the first recipe of hers that I have tried from the Test Kitchen and all I can say is WOW! This will be THE side dish that I fix to go with Mexican style meals from now on. I just made a single batch last night, but while a friend and I were sitting there eating it, we were both already wishing that I had made a double or triple size batch. I could just live on this stuff, it is so yummy.

I believe that her cookbook is supposed to come out sometime around June. I'm sure you'll see me try lots more of her test recipes here in the months to come, and I will definitely be singing the praises of the cookbook when it comes out. If just the dang side dishes are this good, well then, LOOK OUT! It should be great!

So that was my lunch for Tuesday. There was plenty here to make a couple of good size Soft Tacos. I didn't want to bring more than two tortillas since I am trying to watch the calories & carbs. There was actually a little bit of everything left over, so I just dumped it all into one container and stirred it up and finished it off.

I was kinda' wondering if I should've squeezed in a dessert, but now, after my walk, I now know that NO I didn't need any kind of dessert. I am FULL.

The blog post may be a little late tomorrow because everyone at work (including me) is going out for lunch to celebrate the retirement of a coworker. I'll take my camera though and document me using my vegan superpowers to eat out. There will be a blog post up about it as soon as I can get it online.

Well, I guess it's time to get back to work.

Thanks for coming by today and I'll see everybody tomorrow!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Grilled Tempeh

For today's lunch, I wanted something that was really easy to fix, but also something that would taste good and be somewhat healthy. I started digging around in the fridge yesterday evening and found a package of Light Life Tempeh that I needed to use. My favorite use of tempeh, so far, is the Tempeh Reuben recipe found in VwaV. If you've never made those then you must go do it right now because they are so delicious. One reason that they are so delicious is because the marinated tempeh that you use is delicious all by itself. So, I decided to just use the marinade recipe, the same one used for the reubens, and then just grill the tempeh.

I cut the block of tempeh into four pieces and then sliced each of those in half, giving me a total of eight pieces of tempeh to grill. I mixed up the marinade and let them soak for several hours. Then I just grilled them on the stove using one of those grill pans that has all of the little raised surfaces on it. You can't really see it in the picture, because I also covered the tempeh with a little bit of that delicious fat-free Bryanna's Vegan Brown Gravy, but the slices of Grilled Tempeh have some nice black grill marks on them. I like food when it has grill marks on it, I think it makes you think it taste better. But this tempeh actually is delicious, really simple to fix, and I had a bunch left over. I wrapped it up and froze it for future use. I've got a few ideas floating around in my head for what I will eventually do with it, but needless to say, it will eventually end up here in the lunchbox.

On the healthy side of things, I also brought along some Mixed Steamed Vegetables and some fresh Strawberries for dessert. The berries were on sale this week at the store, so I couldn't pass them up. Again, I don't know if it's just because I haven't eaten strawberries in a while or what, but these are SO good. I was actually surprised at how sweet they were. I wasn't expecting much for "middle-of-the-winter" strawberries, but these are really good. I could have capped them and cut them up and fit a couple more into the little lunchbox container, but I like opening the lunchbox and seeing them in their natural state, with the green tops still on them, so I left them that way.

Now, onto the one item in today's lunch that is definitely not health food. Yes, I am still on a diet (more on that later), but I played around in the kitchen a little bit this weekend and finally tried a recipe that I have been wanting to try for quite a while. And while it's not the healthiest thing in the world to eat, I did make a couple of modifications to make it a little bit healthier than it would have been otherwise, plus the lunchbox helps me out again with portion control. But Macaroni & Cheese was one of my favorite foods as an omnivore and up until this weekend, I hadn't been able to find a vegan version that satisfied me. I tried the one out of The Uncheese Cookbook by Jo Stepaniak, but it just didn't do it for me. Then I found this thread over at the Post Punk Kitchen where people were talking about Macaroni & Cheese recipes and someone made the New Farm Cookbook recipe. They said that it was a lot better than The Uncheese Cookbook recipe, so I was tempted to try it, and I did.

HOLY COW! This stuff is good. I did cut back on the oil (I only used 2 Tbsp.) and I used Dreamfield's pasta to significantly lower the digestable carbs, but this stuff is still a vegan treat that you should definitely eat in moderation. I swear this was so good that I could have just sat down and pigged out and eaten the whole 8" x 8" pan of this stuff. I don't know if this recipe is really that good, or if my taste for nutritional yeast has finally just improved to the point where I actually love it, but this recipe is delicious. If you've been looking for a good vegan mac-n-cheese recipe, then you should definitely try this one. The actual recipe is posted there in the ppk thread.

So there's lunch for Monday. Simple, and pretty good for me, except for the mac-n-cheese. It's a small portion, so a treat like this is okay I think, every once in a while. At least it's the only "not-so-good-for-weight-loss" treat in the lunchbox. Since I brought it, I made sure that I didn't bring any more fat or carb laden goodies like homemade rolls or a sweet dessert. As long as I make adjustments like that, I think I'll still be able to lose weight at a decent pace.

And speaking of losing weight, I promised an update every Monday on my weight loss progress, so here it is. You've seen what I ate for lunch last week, and if you remember, last weekend I weighed in at my highest weight ever (again!) which was 225 pounds. I tried eating healthier last week, and I exercised by walking 30 minutes a day. My goal is to do that 5 times a week (Monday - Friday) but last week I ended up only getting in four days. I had a bunch of errands to do on Friday which interfered with my lunchtime walk. Of course, I walked around quite a bit doing those errands, but still, I will admit that I missed a day. At least I did get in 4 days of exercise though, which is 4 days more than what I had been doing.

So what happened? Well, it's been a whole week, and when I weighed myself this weekend I weighed in at 218 pounds, so I have lost 7 pounds so far. This is typical for me whenever I start a Weight Watchers type diet, which is basically what I am doing, and count food points and try to keep them below a certain limit. I normally lose 7-8 pounds a week for the first couple of weeks and then it tapers off to a healthy 1-2 pound weight loss per week. So, needless to say, I am very happy that I lost 7 pounds this week, that's almost 20% of my ultimate goal of 40 pounds!

I went to a birthday party Saturday night and someone even asked me how much weight I had lost, so that feels good to know that it's already showing. I just love it when people ask you if you've lost weight. And all of this happened just by slightly tweaking my diet and getting up and walking a little bit every day. I even overindulged this weekend a little bit by consuming several light beers at the birthday party and even ordering some vegan pizza from Papa John's, plus I made that dang mac-n-cheese, but I knew that I had lost a significant amount of weight already this week, so I figured I deserved it. I mean, yeah, I probably would have lost even more if I hadn't done those three things, but really, 7 pounds in a week is plenty. I'm happy with it.

So that does it for Monday's lunch, and I am DEFINITELY getting my 30 minute walk in today.

Thanks for stopping by and I'll see everybody on Tuesday!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Creamy Vegan Potato Soup

I guess that today's lunch could be considered a little bit less healthy than the last few that I've made, but not by much. Even though it's Potato Soup, it's still vegan and actually gets some of it's creaminess from the fact that it contains quite a bit of protein. Actually, potatoes alone aren't THAT bad for you, as long as they're not fried and they're not super jumbo size. I remember eating lots of baked potatoes on Weight Watchers and they only counted as 4 points. Not too bad really, just don't drown them with margarine, use something fat-free.

But today's main course is some Creamy Vegan Potato Soup made from a recipe found over on VegWeb. There's only 2 Tbsp. of oil in the entire pot of soup, so the fat content is not really that high. Using tofu, with the aid of the food processor, to make it creamy means that it is actually a lot healthier than you would think. Adding the Bac-Os really sets it off and makes it taste like there is real bacon in there. I always loved Potato Soup as an omnivore, and this is actually my first time eating it since I became vegan a little over a year ago. I had forgotten how good it is.

And even though Potato Soup might not be the healthiest thing in the world to eat, the lunchbox helps out a little bit by forcing me to adhere to a decent serving size. The Laptop Lunches lunchbox is comes in really handy for portion control. If not measured out to fit into the lunchbox, I could probably eat the whole entire pot of soup. But I guess that would be a no-no now huh?

To go along with my soup I brought some Mixed Steamed Vegetables, some more delicious Black Beans and a few Red Seedless Grapes for dessert. I really wanted to pack a Cornbread Muffin or something like that to go along with my soup, but since the soup was already so high in carbs from the potatoes, I opted instead for fruits and veggies. I think it's catching myself at points like that and making the right food decision that's gonna' help me get down to my desired weight.

So there you have it, lunch for Friday. The Potato Soup recipe is very good and I highly recommend it. I really need to get over there and spend some time browsing around in the recipes at VegWeb. I have just never spent much time over there, but there are tons of recipes to explore. I'd like to hear about any other exceptional recipes that any of you guys & gals have found over there.

Thanks for checking in today and I'll see everybody on Monday.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Chipotle Chickpea Dip Wraps

I am really excited about today's lunch because not only is it a healthy and nutritious lunch, perfect for someone trying to lose some extra pounds, but it is also really delicious. In fact, after trying this last night, I believe that I can safely say that this will definitely be one of my favorite foods from this point on. I know that I will be making this a lot in the future because I am already wishing that I had made a double, triple or quadruple size batch. Of course, the recipe came from SusanV's Fatfree Vegan Kitchen. It seems like I have been giving her blog quite a workout here lately, but I guess it makes perfect sense. I mean, if you're looking for vegan recipes that are actually healthy for you, her blog and website are the perfect place to look. I don't think I've made anything from there yet that I didn't like. And this recipe is a DEFINITE keeper.

Chipotle Chickpea Dip is pretty much just like hummus, except there is no Tahini in it, therefore, there is no fat in it. YIPEE! It actually still tastes like hummus to me, I don't miss the Tahini at all, but I can see calling it a dip or spread instead just to be official about it. I have never made anything with Chipotles in it before, and it took me a few minutes to locate them in the grocery store. Little did I know what I have been missing. This stuff is so delicious, and it's difficult to believe that it's actually fat-free. My favorite type of hummus, so far, is Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, and I think that a couple of roasted red peppers might be good thrown into this too. Perhaps, I will try that next. But this stuff is yummy just like it is. It has the perfect amount of spiciness to it to give you that nice slow burn while you're eating it.

In order to prepare wraps for lunch, I used the little trick that I figured out way back when of transporting two small flour tortillas in the lid of the lunchbox. These are the smaller flour tortillas and there are two of them up there. If you put your pointer over them on the picture you'll see the pop-up text box identify them. They fit up there perfectly, and after everything is in the lunchbox, all you have to do is put the red lid on the red container and stick some Glad Press-n-Seal on the other containers and then you can close the lunchbox lid, with the tortillas resting on top of everything else, and you are good to go.

I originally wanted to get some low carb or whole wheat tortillas, but they didn't come in the smaller size, so they wouldn't fit into the lunchbox as easily. I don't guess it matters though because the lowest calorie count I could find on any low carb or whole wheat tortilla was 100 calories each, and these regular flour tortillas that I brought are only 80 calories each, due to their smaller size. So it's all good.

It actually doesn't take this much of the dip to make a couple of wraps. In fact, this is about double what you really need. I wanted to bring extra though so some people at work could try it on some crackers. I wanted to see if an omnivore would find it as delicious as I did. Guess what... They did! I think that just about anyone would find this dip to be delicious. It's that good.

In the green container are the perfect companions for making a wrap out of the Chipotle Chickpea Dip. I've got some Baby Spinach Leaves, some sliced Roma Tomato and a few pieces of sliced Red Onion. I tried this on a tortilla with the dip last night and I can confirm that it is indeed very delicious.

The smaller containers hold some Spanish Rice, which is actually just some of the leftover Tofu Jambalaya from yesterday's lunch, minus the tofu of course, and some more of the Red Seedless Grapes that were on sale this week at my local grocery store. They make a really good dessert and are certainly much more figure friendly than a vegan brownie or cookie.

So that does it for Thursday's lunch. This stuff is really good and I highly recommend making it, especially if you already like hummus anyway. It's delicious and healthy, just what I need to help me shape up a little bit before Summer gets here. I got my 30 minute walk in today as well, so everything is cruising right along.

Thanks for coming by today and I'll see everybody tomorrow!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Tofu Jambalaya

Well, it's time for another delicious vegan lunch where I have tried to be a good boy and limit the amount of fat & simple carbs so as to facilitate the loss of 40 or more unwanted pounds. Today's lunch was actually inspired by a recipe over at SusanV's Fatfree Vegan Kitchen. I had all intentions of making this from scratch last night using the recipe, but I ended up taking the easy way out and using some storebought items to help me cook something similar with a little less work. I would still like to try SusanV's recipe though because I am sure it tastes quite a bit different (i.e. even better?) than what I ended up making.

I just went to the store and picked up a box of Zatarain's Jambalaya mix. The rice and all of the spices & seasonings are there already in the box and all I had to do was boil some water and dump it in. I think the box calls for adding some oil or a couple of tablespoons of margarine, I really don't know if it did or not because I didn't read the instructions that well, just the ingredients, but it didn't matter because I never added that extra fat anyway when I cooked something like this from a box. And I'm definitely not going to start now that I'm trying to lose some weight.

I didn't plan ahead and freeze my tofu, but I did press it a little bit before I steamed it, just to get some of the excess liquid out of it. Since I hadn't frozen it, and it was still a little fragile, I was afraid to just stir it up into all of the rice while it cooked. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, in addition to the water that I cooked the rice in I also poured in a can of diced tomatoes with chilis. YUM! So, back to the tofu, to keep it cubed up as much as possible and not break it all up, I steamed it separately in one of those steamer/strainer things that you put down in a big pot of boiling water. I sprinkled the tofu with a bunch of cajun seasonings that come already mixed up in a big shaker. I threw it all together at the end and there you have it. It tastes really good, although the Zatarain's Jambalaya Mix tastes more like just plain old Spanish Rice to me, which is still tasty. Maybe that's my fault since I added the can of tomatoes & chilis. Oh well, it doesn't matter, it's delicious.

I brought along some Black Beans in the other large container. I picked up a different brand and got one that actually came from Mexico because I figured it might taste better than just the plain old store brand. I was right. These are much better than the canned Black Beans that I usually buy. I did give the ingredient list a quick look though just to make sure that they hadn't put any pork fat or anything like that in there. Luckily they hadn't. I think I will buy this brand from now on. I don't have the name of it with me right now or I would tell you, but it was in the Mexican food section of the store, there near the canned Chipotles and stuff like that.

To finish filling the lunchbox I just brought some raw carrots and for dessert, some delicious red seedless grapes that just happen to be on sale this week at the local grocer. Maybe it's just because I haven't had grapes in a while, but this batch I bought yesterday seem to be unusually sweet & delicious to me. I really enjoyed them.

So I guess that does it for a healthy vegan lunch for Wednesday. Today was a little busy at work, but I did manage to squeeze my 30 minute walk in during lunch hour. So, so far I am 3/3 for sticking with my goal to get some exercise in every day. I won't report my weight until next Monday, but just since this past Monday (3 days ago) I can tell that I am losing weight, so everything is going good so far, but based on my past dieting experience I always do lose pretty good the first couple of weeks before it settles down to the 1-2 pounds a week phase. So I really enjoy this initial weight loss and hopefully I will have some really good news to report on Monday.

Thanks for reading my blog today and I'll see everybody on Thursday.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Roma Tomato & Basil Baked Tofu

Okay, THIS is what I'm talkin' about. I really switched gears with today's lunch as I try to eat healthier in my quest to shed 40 pounds as quickly & safely as possible. Most of my recent lunches have been way too heavy on the simple carbs and fat so I really went out of my way to minimize those things today. Yesterday, as I was driving home, I had no idea what I was going to bring for lunch today. So I stopped at the local health food store to see what I could find that might be interesting, and healthy at the same time. I was snooping around in the cooler when I rediscovered something that I had seen in the past, and always wanted to try, but never did.

If you remember an earlier post where I tried to make some Barbecued Tofu, then you might remember that I was not too happy with the texture that I got when I fried it in a skillet. I mentioned that maybe I would have liked it better if I had baked it and then Isa confirmed in the comments that I would have gotten a much better texture if I had done that. (Isa posted in my comments, WOOT!) I remembered seeing some type of flavored tofu at the health food store in the past that was already packaged soaking in different types of marinade. I thought that I would pick up one of those since they were already marinated and then just slice it up and bake it. Well, I found the package that I was looking for, I picked it up and read it, and I was completely amazed. White Wave's Roma Tomato & Basil Baked Tofu was not simply packaged in marinade, it was actually already baked and ready to eat. I couldn't believe it. This was great because now I could taste baked tofu that has been prepared properly and know what kind of texture I should be shooting for when I prepare it.

I took the stuff home and opened the package. I assumed it was one big block and that I would have to slice it up. Wrong again. It was already sliced into 4 perfect slices. This stuff required absolutely no work on my part. I love it. I heated a couple of the pieces up last night and tried them and they were very good. I definitely like the texture of baked tofu better. Now I know what it is supposed to look and taste like. So I am really fired up about making some on my own now. Although, there are a few other flavors of the White Wave stuff that I would like to try sometime too. This is good stuff and I highly recommend it.

In the other large container, I've got some Steamed Mixed Vegetables. And then in the smaller containers I've got some Edamame and a Carrot Salad that I just whipped up with some of the chopped carrots that I had leftover from where I made all of those Carrot Cake Cupcakes this weekend. Most Carrot Salads that I have seen before have had slaw-like dressing in them, which for me would mean stirring some Vegenaise and some sugar together. But, since I wanted to eat healthier, I remembered some comments to a post somewhere way back where I had made slaw and someone suggested that I could make it healthier by just using Apple Cider Vinegar instead of the Vegenaise and all that sugar. So that's what I did here. I just stirred in a little Apple Cider Vinegar, not too much, and tossed in some raisins and sprinkled the top with the tiniest amount of chopped walnuts. I guess I could have left the walnuts off, but there's probably not enough on there to even add up to half of a half of a walnut piece. And the cool thing is, this actually tastes good. The sweetness of the carrots & raisins really goes well with the WHANG! of the Apple Cider Vinegar. I'm gonna' make some more of this when I get home tonight because I still have a lot of chopped carrots left over.

So there's lunch for Tuesday. Definitely healthier than what I have been bringing. I am also happy to report that I squeezed my 30 minute walk in today during lunch hour also. I don't know if you saw it in the comments, but in addition to eating better, I am committing myself to walking at least 30 minutes 5 times a week (Monday through Friday) to help me lose weight at a decent pace. So far, so good.

Thanks for stopping by today. See everybody tomorrow!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Vegan Chicken in a Biscuit

Once again, today's lunch ended up being a good use of leftovers from Sunday's big breakfast. I made some delicious vegan biscuits & gravy yesterday with all the fixin's and it was so delicious. Biscuits & gravy was one of my favorite foods when I was an omnivore and I am so thankful that there is a vegan version of it. I even added some homemade tempeh sausage crumbles to my gravy, so it was really, really good. I ended up with several biscuits left over though, and I hate to throw them away, so one of them ended up in my lunchbox today.

As an omnivore, I'm ashamed to say that I also ate a lot of chicken biscuits in my day, usually purchased from fast food places for breakfast. You can only imagine how unhealthy those were with biscuits full of milk & butter, and then a piece of deep fried chicken stuck in there. I looked it up once when I was into the Weight Watchers thing and it was unbelievable. Needless to say, I didn't eat any chicken biscuits while on Weight Watchers. The chicken biscuit that I brought today is considerably healthier since it's vegan, and I baked the Boca Chik'n Patty, but it's still no shining jewel of healthy eating. It does taste really good though.

I also had some fried potatoes & onions left over from breakfast which were just fried up in a skillet with a little bit of canola oil. I sliced the potatoes using a mandolin slicer and then cut those long "fries" into shorter pieces that were about the length of the onion pieces. I made some really good hash browns once upon a time by using the mandolin slicer to make fries and then painstakingly cutting all of those fries into teeny-tiny little cubes. It was a little bit of work, but it made really good hash browns, and I intend on using that method at some point in the future to make tiny little cubed potatoes that I can mix with some of that vegan chorizo that I enjoyed a while back and try making some type of vegan equivalent to corned beef hash. I just love trying to veganize things that are so completely NOT VEGAN.

I had a single slice of one of SusanV's Fatfree and Fabulous Fudgy Brownies left in the fridge, so I brought that for dessert.

And then, in an attempt to redeem myself a little bit for all of the unhealthiness in the lunchbox today, I filled the last container with some raw baby carrots.

Today's lunchbox is a perfect example of the major mistake that I made when I first went vegan. I assumed that just because something was vegan that meant that it was also healthy. Just a couple of months of thinking like that saw me gain weight until I weighed more than I ever had before and made my cholesterol skyrocket. I was so shocked because I thought my cholesterol would drop since I wasn't consuming any anymore. But all of that fat and all those simple carbs that I had been eating were fueling my body's own cholesterol producing machinery and had it working overtime.

I've gone through spells where I've tried to eat healthier, and then I seem to drift back to more "junk food" type vegan eats. Well, after looking at what I brought for lunch today, and after weighing myself this weekend, I have realized that something is going to have to give. I am back up to my maximum weight and Spring is practically around the corner. How am I going to be able to show myself around the pool?!?!?!

So, from now on, I am going to make an effort to make my lunches healthier and incorporate as many veggies as I can while cutting back on the simple carbs. I am also going to use this blog to make myself accountable for my weight and the upcoming weight loss. So, here it is. Here's how much I weigh for the whole world to see. When I weighed this weekend, I weighed 225 lbs. This is the highest weight I have ever been, and I've been here a couple of times in the past. All of the previous times, I used Weight Watchers Online to help me be accountable and lose some weight. The most I ever lost in one try was 30 lbs. This time, however, I am going to use my blog to make myself accountable for what I eat and how much I weigh each week.

Normally, when I've lost weight before, I lose pretty fast for the first week or two and then it levels off to a pound or two a week. In the past though, it has not been uncommon for me to lose 5-8 lbs. in the first week. So I guess we'll see what happens. I would really like to get back down to 185 lbs. (or less). Perhaps by documenting what I am eating and how much I weigh each week on here, I will be able to stick with this and get myself down to where I won't be terrified of being seen in swimming trunks this Summer.

I think I will even stick a little thing over there in the left hand column which will show my weight each week, maybe halfway down the page so it's not TOO obvious. I'll update it every Monday and that way it'll all be out there for me (and everybody) to see. If I feel accountable, and know that I have to post my weight on there every Monday for everybody to see, then I think that will help me stick with trying to eat better.

I'll try to keep my food as varied as possible, but I assume that vegetables will be showing up a whole lot more, plus this would be a good chance for me to experiment with some of the raw food recipes that I have been wanting to try. And even though today's lunch really doesn't fit into the "eating healthier" thing, it is what has finally made me realize that I have strayed way too far from eating stuff that is good for me. I won't throw it away, because compared to what some people eat, it actually IS healthier (I baked the Chik'n patty, and the brownies are virtually fat-free), but it's still not the type of food that I SHOULD be eating.

I realized all of this last night when I was uploading the picture of my lunch. So this morning, instead of eating another vegan chicken biscuit for breakfast (which is what I was planning on doing), I ate a Larabar instead. Raw fruits & veggies will be my new french fries & cookies. And hopefully putting my weight on here in public will make it easier for me to stick with it.

The only bad thing is, now I've got to come up with whole new ideas for the lunchbox this week. You wouldn't believe some of the crap that I had planned to bring this week. These four words should give you an idea of what kind of junk food I was planning: Vegan White Castle Burgers. WOW!

I still like vegan junk food, but I eat way too much of it. And if I want to lose some weight, then I'm going to have to severely limit it for a while. So sit back and enjoy watching me try to lose, let's see, what would it be... 40 pounds. It's embarrassing enough to put my actual weight on here, so don't expect any BEFORE picture. Hahahaha. I might post an AFTER picture just to prove that I did lose it.

Hey, this is kinda' scary now because I already feel a billion times more accountable. This may end up working better than Weight Watchers. I guess we'll see.

Thanks for coming by today.

I'll be back tomorrow with a considerably healthier vegan lunch.

See you then.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

VLC EXTRA - Vegan Cupcakes

Well, this has ended up being kind of an interesting story. I spent a good chunk of time today making a couple of batches of vegan cupcakes for a friend's birthday party that was scheduled for tonight. But, by the time I got finished making them, and got ready to go to the party, it had started snowing up a storm here in Johnson City. We packed the cupcakes into the car and tried to get going to the party but we couldn't even get out of the driveway without sliding backwards. The roads are completely covered. So, now I am here, stuck at home with two dozen cupcakes. HA! I guess things could be worse. Here's a picture of a single cupcake. It ended up being a little bit blurry, but you get the idea.

I ended up making two dozen of the Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing from the incredible Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero. They're not difficult to make, but making two dozen cupcakes is just something that takes a little bit of time.

To transport them to the party, I ended up asking for a couple of those plastic clamshell containers that they sell cupcakes in at my local grocery store. I offered to buy a couple, but they just ended up giving them to me. That was nice. Here's a picture of a dozen of them in one of the containers. I think they look pretty neat. I have yet to invest in a big fancy cupcake carrier because I really don't make cupcakes that much. If I ever do decide to invest in a carrier though, here is my dream cupcake carrier.

So, there's my boring birthday party cupcake story. I guess now I will need to decide whether I want to just take all of these cupcakes to work with me on Monday, try freezing them and then thawing them out for the party next weekend (I don't even know if that is possible, I will have to read up on that in VctotW, I bet it covers that topic). Or, I could have a really interesting Saturday night and sit here and eat two dozen cupcakes. Probably not. Lucky for me, I'm not that big on sweets. I like making them for other people, and I don't mind eating them, but a dozen cupcakes are a lot safer around me than a dozen homemade rolls.

If it's cold & snowy where you're at then stay warm.

See everybody on Monday.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Amy's Indian Mattar Tofu

Well, I ate my lunch a little bit earlier than normal today because I had no idea what I would think about it and wanted to be able to give my honest opinion about it in my post. I ended up getting home a little late last night so I didn't have time (or energy) to start slinging stuff around in the kitchen and cooking. So I went to the freezer to see what I had hanging around in there for emergency back-up. I always like to keep a few storebought vegan goodies in there for times just like last night when I don't have the time to make something totally from scratch.

Well, I found Amy's Indian Mattar Tofu sitting there just begging me to bring it for lunch today. So I did. Now, I have noticed from poking my nose into every vegan related site I can find online that a lot of vegans are really into Indian food. I am actually ashamed to say that I have only tried Indian food once before in my life. And I don't know why that is because that first time I tried it I really liked it, and after eating the meal that I brought today, I am happy to report that I also liked it really well. Maybe it's because I have this impression that it might be difficult to actually eat vegan in an actual Indian Restaurant. From what I have read, almost everything has yogurt and/or ghee in it. Maybe that's true, or maybe it's not. I don't know. At any rate, Indian food appears to be a popular thing for vegans to make at home, so I really need to roll my sleeves up and start trying some of the recipes that are floating around out there.

Kittee has some Indian recipes on her website that sound really good. And it doesn't look like this stuff is hard to make. In fact, I think I have a lot of the things that I already need at home because I did discover this cool Indian grocery near where I work and it is the ONLY place I buy spices at now. It is so much cheaper than the grocery store. So during some of my shopping trips there I have managed to pick up huge bags of Curry Powder and Garam Masala, as well as a few other things that I have no idea how to use. I had just seen them mentioned in popular recipes on vegan websites and then saw them in the store so I thought I should pick them up while I was there so I would have them on hand whenever the urge hit me to try cooking some Indian cuisine.

Anyway, today's lunchbox required absolutely no work on my part because Amy's Kitchen did all of the work for me. All I did was remove the items from the container that they came frozen in and distribute them into the lunchbox containers. I actually don't even know how you are supposed to eat this, or what's supposed to mix with what, so I ended up mixing some of the Basmati Rice with both the Mattar Tofu and the Dal. It was really, really good.

The Mattar Tofu actually reminded me of the Scrambled Tofu recipe from VwaV because it contained chunks of tofu and obviously lots of Turmeric. In fact, I think if I just mixed up a bunch of peas with my scrambled tofu, it would be amazingly similar to this dish. And I love scrambled tofu, so needless to say, I also liked this.

The Dal was also quite delicious. This was my first time ever eating it. I really like all of those fragrant spices in there, which I guess are the hallmark of Indian cooking. My boss says that she fixes this all the time and that she just chops an onion and cooks it until nicely browned, then sprinkles like 1 Tbsp. of Garam Masala over it and cooks it for a few second until really fragrant and then mixes it with some cooked lentils, sometimes adding some canned tomatoes or who knows what else. It sounds really simple, and she says that it's delicious. Since I have all of the spices already, I have a feeling I will be experimenting with Indian cooking quite soon.

To fill that last empty space in the lunchbox, I just brought along some more Steamed Mixed Vegetables. There's broccoli, green beans and carrots in there and I just, once again, put them in the lunchbox frozen, they thawed out by lunch time, and then I just microwaved them for a quick minute or so to heat them up.

So that does it for Friday. I just finished eating this a few minutes ago and I really enjoyed it. It makes me want to learn a lot more about cooking Indian food and finding out how difficult (or easy?) it would be to eat vegan in a regular Indian restaurant. If anyone has any tips or suggestions on vegan Indian restaurant dining, I would like to hear them. Especially which dishes might be easily veganized, and which dishes taste really good, etc.

Thanks for reading my blog today and I'll see everybody on Monday.

I won't promise anything, but I may do a quick post tomorrow (on Saturday) because I am planning on making a bunch of vegan cupcakes to take to a birthday party. If they turn out really good, which I'm sure they will, I will take a pic or two and do a post on them. And obviously, I will be using a recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa & Terry.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Vegan Hot Dog & Chili Fries

Today's lunch is one of those lunches that came about as a result of something that I had earlier in the week. I opened a package of Light Life Smart Dogs a few days ago to make those yummy Vegan Pigs in a Blanket, so there was this plastic container in the fridge last night that just had a single vegan frankfurter left in it. And what better use for that than a delicious Vegan Hot Dog, with chili and everything.

I just put the Light Life Smart Dog on a whole wheat hot dog bun and squirted a little bit of French's Spicy Brown Mustard on it. I didn't want to put the chili on it yet, since I was afraid that it might get too soggy before lunch, so I put the chili in a separate container. The last time I brought hot dogs for lunch, I put the chili in one of the little blue dressing containers that the lunchbox comes with. I wanted a little more than that this time, so I used one of the larger containers, which gives me more than enough chili for a hot dog. In fact, it leaves me enough so that I can pour it all over another item in the lunchbox...

Ore-Ida Curly Fries are delicious by themselves, or with chili poured all over them. And it's really not that bad for me because I always bake my fries in the oven, and the chili that I brought actually happens to be fat free. This is my favorite kind of chili for hot dogs, and it's actually another one of those storebought items that surprises some people when they find out that it's vegan. Texas Pete Hot Dog Chili Sauce can normally be found in the grocery store there beside of the canned tuna, vienna sausages, potted meat (gasp!) and all of that stuff. There are actually several different brands of hot dog chili sauce which don't contain meat (I think they've just got TVP in there), but all of the other ones that I have ever seen have beef fat added. But not Texas Pete. I even sent them an e-mail to make sure that it was vegan, and they confirmed that it was. It's one of those products that's so cheap it's vegan. Which works out good for me because I think it's yummy. It tastes just like regular old hot dog chili.

For dessert I brought along some delicious brownies that I made using a recipe from SusanV's Fatfree Vegan Kitchen. Her Fatfree and Fabulous Fudgy Brownies are really good. You won't believe how moist they are, and the recipe is super duper easy. I still haven't found my perfect vegan brownie recipe yet, because all of them that I have tried so far are a little more cakey than I like, but this one is probably my favorite one that I have tried so far.

So there's lunch for Thursday. I always like it when I bring hot dogs for lunch, and who doesn't like french fries with chili poured all over them? That, plus the fact that everything is vegan, and the hot dog chili and even the brownie are virtually fat free, makes this lunch a winner, in my opinion.

Thanks for stopping by. See everybody on Friday!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Roasted Garlic & Spinach Pasta

Well, today's lunch might not have been the wisest thing to bring on Valentine's Day because it's loaded with garlic, but it's oh so good. I got an urge yesterday evening to make some kind of pasta dish for dinner, but I wanted something a little bit different. I really like making pasta for dinner because it always means that there will be plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day. And that was definitely the case with this dish, which I just made up as I went along. I think I'll just call it Roasted Garlic & Spinach Pasta.

First, I just cooked some Whole Wheat Penne Pasta in some salted boiling water for 12 min and then dumped it into a strainer. Then, after making sure all of the water was out of the pot I cooked the pasta in, I put that same pot back on the stove and poured in 1/3 cup of Olive Oil. I meant to use just plain old Olive Oil, but then I remembered that I had a small bottle of Olive Oil infused with Basil up in the cabinet that came in a bag full of gourmet food items that my boss got me for Christmas (and YES she did make sure that everything in the bag was vegan). So I ended up using the Basil Olive Oil. Once the oil was heated up I dropped in a couple of heads of garlic, yes HEADS not cloves. I broke the heads apart into cloves and peeled and chopped them up into pretty good bite-size pieces before adding them to the hot oil. I cooked all of that garlic until it was nice and sweet and brown. YUM!

Then I threw in some Roasted Red Peppers that I had sliced up, along with some Pine Nuts that I had toasted in a dry pan. And to finish it all off, I poured in a whole bag of fresh Baby Spinach leaves and wilted them down. Then I just poured all of the Whole Wheat Penne Pasta back into the pot and stirred it all together. Needless to say, this tastes delicious and it made TONS of food.

To go along with my pasta I brought some Steamed Mixed Vegetables which just came from the freezer section of the local grocery store. I've had salads the last couple of days, so I wanted to bring something different today. And, as I mentioned once before, my favorite way to do these vegetables is to just put them in the lunchbox while they are still frozen and then just let them thaw out on their own. There is an ice-pack in the lunchbox carrier, which keeps everything cool, but the veggies will thaw out before lunchtime. Then I just give them a quick minute or so in the microwave and they are nice and steaming hot while still remaining crisp & brightly colored, just the way that I like them.

I also toasted up a couple of pieces of garlic toast by just spreading some Earth Balance on some whole wheat bread, sprinkling it with garlic salt, and then popping it in the toaster oven for a couple of minutes. That left no room for dessert today, but with all of that pasta, I don't think I'll need any.

So there's lunch for Wednesday. It was super easy to prepare and it kinda' makes for a fancy lunch.

Thanks for stopping by and I'll see everybody tomorrow.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Vegan Pigs in a Blanket

When I first cooked the Pillsbury Crescent Rolls for yesterday's lunch, my mind immediately starting thinking about using them in their other most obvious use (to me anyway) and so the Vegan Pigs in a Blanket were born. I remember eating these as a child, and I always really liked them. In fact, I guess I've always enjoyed eating some version of this particular food item because I remember being quite fond of those Pretzel Dogs that they serve at those Auntie Anne's Pretzels places in the mall a couple of years ago before I stopped eating meat. And actually, now that I think about it, I have seen an entry in someone else's vegan blog where they made vegan Bagel Dogs. That would also be delicious. I don't remember exactly where I saw that, so if anyone knows right off the top of their head where it is, mention it in the comments because I think I would like to try that too.

Anyway, to make these, all I did was take some Light Life Smart Dogs and cut them in half and then wrap them with some Pillsbury Crescent Roll dough. And in case you missed yesterday's post, or didn't already know, YES Pillsbury Crescent Rolls are actually vegan. Weird, I know. Then I just baked them according to the directions there on the cardboard tube that the dough comes in. Is it just me, or does that packaging scare the daylights out of anyone else? I almost have a stroke everytime I have to press a spoon onto that cardboard just waiting for it to POP! Well, maybe it's not that bad, but I think there's just something diabolical about that packaging.

To finish filling the lunchbox, I brought along another salad of Organic Baby Greens. The little blue containers hold some Italian Dressing for my salad and some mustard to go along with my little "Pigs".

And for dessert, I brought the last remaining Peanut Butter & Chocolate Bar from what has to be like my 4th batch of these things. They're made using the recipe from La Dolce Vegan by Sarah Kramer. I swear I'm gonna' try something else, I swear I'm gonna' try something else, I swear I'm gonna' try something else. In fact, I've spotted a brownie recipe on one of my favorite vegan blogs that I would really like to try. I don't think I've got anything else at home to pack for dessert tomorrow, so perhaps I'll dive into that recipe tonight.

Well, I guess that just about does it for Tuesday. The Vegan Pigs in a Blanket are quite yummy and are a great way to remind you of when you were little. They're the perfect size for packing in the lunchbox too. Plus, cooking doesn't get much easier than slicing something in half and then wrapping some pre-made dough around it.

On a similar note, one of these days I would really like to try making a vegan corn dog. For some reason, I always really liked corn dogs. Then when I stopped eating meat, I was addicted to the Morningstar Farms Veggie Corn Dogs. But when I went vegan, then even those were out of the question. I tried making some once, but it was a disaster, but from some of the stuff that I have read since then, I think that my batter may have been too thick. Who knows? It would be nice to have something that you could wrap around the wieners so that you could bake them in the oven instead of having to dip them in batter and then deep fry them. Pillsbury also makes, or at least used to, some type of cornbread dough that comes rolled up in a tube like the Crescent Rolls. Something like that would probably work really well, although if I had to guess, I would bet that the cornbread dough product is not vegan. I'll have to check on that. Hey, maybe even Polenta would work? Hmmmm... I see a Saturday science project taking shape.

Okay, enough of that. It's lunchtime!

Thanks for coming by today and I'll see everybody back here tomorrow!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Vegan Mini Crustless Quiche

Today's lunchbox contains some items from a new recipe that I tried yesterday for Sunday Brunch. I have been meaning, for quite some time, to try one of the many vegan quiche recipes that I have seen floating around online and in various cookbooks. I used to really love quiche back when I was an omnivore, but now it's hard to imagine anything less healthy than a big pie made out of eggs & cheese. I really can't even comprehend how I ever managed to eat such a concoction, but I did, and I liked it. So a vegan version of such a dish would be a welcome addition to my recipe box. I knew that most vegan quiche recipes rely on Silken Tofu to replace the eggs, and I actually had some in the cabinet at home yesterday, so I hopped online and started looking for recipes at all of my usual hangouts.

It took me about 2 minutes to find the exact recipe I was looking for at SusanV's Fatfree Vegan Kitchen. Not only was it a quiche recipe, but it was a recipe for making mini quiches. Exactly what I needed to pack in the lunchbox for today's lunch. I ended up altering the recipe just a little bit. I made the quiche part, following the recipe exactly, but then I just stirred in some thawed frozen spinach until it looked the way that I wanted it to. And then I stirred in a few tablespoons of Bac-Os. In fact, Bac-Os are one of my favorite things to surprise omnivores with when they ask questions like, "What in the world does a vegan eat?" I remember a discussion I was having with someone once and they were telling me how there was no way in the world that they could ever be vegan, or even vegetarian, because they liked eating meat so much. In an effort to really impress me with how serious their meat-eating habit really was, they said, "Hey, I can't even eat a salad unless I put Bac-Os on it." And of course, I was like, "Um... Bac-Os are vegan." It's one of those things that sometimes surprises people and shows them that YES it IS possible to survive without eating animals, and you can even enjoy it!

Anyway, the Crustless Mini Quiches came out really well. There are actually four of them stacked there in the lunchbox. They taste a lot like I remember quiche tasting, except that they are almost fat-free. The only fat in them comes from the tofu. And I really like the flavor of the spinach and the Bac-Os. I will definitely be making these again. Maybe I'll add a little chopped onion. I would like to purchase some mini-muffin tins though so that next time I can make the real little teeny tiny quiches like you might see at a party.

I also brought along a salad of some Organic Mixed Baby Greens and a little Italian Dressing that was hanging out in my fridge.

And then to finish the lunchbox off, I brought another storebought item that sometimes surprises people because it's vegan, and that's Pillsbury Crescent Rolls. I don't know how they do it (and I guess that means it's not super healthy), because they taste buttery as all get out, but these things are actually vegan. I am not sure if they still make the really big version of these, or if they are even vegan but I would assume that they probably are, but if they do, I would like to make some of the big ones up one day and split them and make some delicious faux chicken salad sandwiches on them. Mmmmm... that would be so good. There's another good use for them too, and I'm thinking about trying it out in tomorrow's lunch box, but I'll just keep quiet about that for right now.

So there's the lunchbox for Monday. Crustless Mini Quiches are something that I highly recommend trying sometime. They taste just like the egg & cheese laden version, but they are so much better for you, and the animals. Made in some mini-muffin tins, I think that they would also be an excellent vegan food item to take to a party or other social gathering where you were looking to impress people with some delicious food that's surprisingly vegan. I mean, who in the world would expect vegan quiche?!?!

Thanks for checking in today. See everybody on Tuesday!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Vegan Dining Out @ Cootie Brown's

Well, it's Friday, so I decided to end the week by going out to eat for lunch again. I usually like to go out about once a week. I think that it makes for a nice change of pace. Of course, being vegan means you might be a little bit limited in the number of places that you can successfully find something that you like to eat, but overall I find it pretty easy to eat well in most places. One of my most favorite places to eat around here is Cootie Brown's. There are only a couple of locations, one in Kingsport (where I work) and one in Johnson City (where I live). They are locally owned restaurants that have their own unique theme that can only be described by words like artsy, different, quirky, and fun. And their food, or at least all of it that I have ever tried, can only be described as delicious. I know every one has different tastes, and some people may not like certain items on the menu, but their menu is so varied that I find it difficult to believe that there isn't something for everybody there. And one of the coolest things about Cootie Brown's is that they offer quite a few vegetarian, and even vegan, options.

We started out out lunch by ordering a big order of Chips & Salsa. They recently lowered all of their prices back to 1999 prices so now this huge plate of Chips & Salsa only costs like $2.95. They slice and fry their own tortilla chips right in the restaurant, so they taste a lot better than just plain old bagged chips that you might get at other places. I'm not sure if the salsa is homemade, but it tastes like it is. You can definitely tell that there is fresh cilantro in there. The Chips & Salsa make for a very nice appetizer if you want something to munch on while waiting for your main course. And if you run out of salsa, like we did, just ask and they will bring you some more. This whole 1999 price promotion thing is really cool. The prices of some of the menu items are actually unbelievable. Plus, this wasn't an option today because it is colder than whiz around here right now, but it is so awesome to eat at Cootie Brown's when it is warm outside because both locations have huge covered outdoor dining areas. In fact, there is more outdoor dining space than there is indoor dining space. I can't wait until it warms up again and all of those walls & windows open up again.

For my entree, I chose my absolute favorite thing to eat there right now, and that is the Spinach Veggie Burger. They actually have three different types of veggie burgers. They're all really good, and they all seem to use the same base of lentils, brown rice, bulgar wheat, maybe potatoes? But then they add either black beans, sundried tomatoes, or spinach & basil to make the three different burgers. The burgers and buns are vegan, but you just have to ask them to leave off any cheese or mayo in order to make sure that your whole meal is vegan. I also usually mention that I don't want any butter on the bun either because I am pretty sure that they normally put a little bit on there and grill the buns. They are always very accommodating.

The Spinach Veggie Burger is so good. It's definitely my favorite of the three types that they offer, and it only costs $4.95! You can order from several different sides to go along with it. You can get a side salad (what I SHOULD have gotten), home-style fries, or spiral-cut fries (like the ones I got). There are a few bottles of seasonings to spice them up with on the table; Jerk, Ranch & Barbecue. I'm not sure exactly what's in them though, so I am not certain that they are vegan. It seems like powdery spice mixtures like that sometimes might contain whey. I'm not sure. I know that I could ask them if they were vegan and they would tell me. I just never have. In fact, I'm usually so stuffed after I eat the burger that I sometimes don't even touch the fries anyway.

Cootie Brown's is a cool place because they actually understand what vegetarianism & veganism are. In fact, while I was eating there I was wearing my absolute favorite shirt (a big dark navy blue hoodie sweatshirt with VEGAN written across the chest in big varsity letters) and the waiter started asking me how long I had been vegan, and so on. So he actually knew what it was, which is more than I can say for the waiters in most other restaurants. They have a lot of college students that work there, and their "uniforms" are tie-dyed shirts, so it's a pretty hip crowd that you're dealing with when you eat there.

I used to eat there a lot when I was vegetarian too. They had this one pizza that I absolutely loved called The Wood Burner. It had fresh spinach, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes and I don't remember what else on it. It was so good. I couldn't order that now since it has a little bit of mozzarella & goat cheese on it, but I have often thought about taking my own container of some cubed up Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet Mozzarella down there and asking if they would mind putting that on my pizza instead of regular cheese. I'm sure that they would probably do it. Heck, who knows, they might even start to offer it as a pizza option. Now THAT would be cool! Hmmmmm... I need to check into that.

So there's lunch for Friday. REALLY EASY on me because I didn't have to do any of the cooking. Cootie Brown's is a really cool place to eat, especially if you are vegan. I think this is my third time featuring them on here, and there are still more vegan dining options on their menu that I haven't covered yet. I guess we'll save those for future blog posts huh?

Thanks for stopping by today and I'll see everybody on Monday.

Have a great weekend!


Thursday, February 08, 2007

Black Beans & Rice with Vegan Chorizo

If you've been reading my blog, then you probably have noticed that I am all about vegan meat analogues. I got into vegetarianism, and then eventually veganism, strictly for the animals. It had nothing to do with trying to improve my health or because I didn't like the taste of meat, I just didn't agree with what was being done to obtain it. So I am fascinated by vegan replacements for meat and by how close people, or large companies, can come to making an exact vegan copy of an animal-based product. I know not all vegans are into meat replacements, I mean, how "natural" can it be to turn plant ingredients into something that looks & tastes like a hot dog? But after a lifetime of being conditioned to enjoy the taste of meat, I find vegan meat replacements to be an essential part of helping me live the most cruelty-free life that I can, while still allowing me to enjoy myself by eating things that I like.

That being said, I have been fascinated by the Melissa's Soyrizo that I have seen at the store several times before. If you've never seen it, it looks just like a package of some type of real sausage. It's bright red, enclosed in some type of non-animal casing and then twisted there in the middle, just like a real sausage. I've never had actual Chorizo before (the greasiness of it, plus even as an omnivore I always had trouble with that whole intestine casing thing) so I don't have anything to compare the vegan version with. What I can tell you is that this stuff is dang tasty!

I ended up cooking half of it in a skillet, you just squeeze it out of the "casing" and fry it on high heat. Then I cooked up a pot of Zatarain's Black Beans & Rice and then poured all of the Soyrizo into it and let it simmer for a while. This stuff tastes really good, and I mean really good. I will DEFINITELY be making this again.

The next time I do it though, I may try making my vegan Chorizo from scratch. There is a recipe for it in VwaV, and I would bet that it tastes just as good, if not better, than this store bought stuff. I mean, really, when it comes right down to it, all this stuff is made of is TVP and all of the necessary spices. Surely I could do that from scratch. I want to try that soon.

I also brought along some more of those mixed vegetables, but I cooked them a little bit differently today. I tossed them in a little bit of olive oil and sprinkled them with some garlic salt before cooking them. As you can see the color of the veggies is not quite as vivid as when I just plop them in the container frozen and heat them up in the microwave at work. They don't taste as fresh either, but they're still good. I think from now on, I'll probably skip trying to jazz them up any. I like them better when they are brighter in color and taste fresh instead of tasting "cooked". Lesson learned.

I had a cornbread muffin (with ground flax seed added) left over from Tuesday. so I brought that. And then I went ahead and made up another pan of those delicious Peanut Butter & Chocolate Bars from the recipe that I found in La Dolce Vegan by Sarah Kramer. I really need to try a new recipe from that book and quit making candy all the time. Once I find something I like though, I tend to over do it everytime. Oh well.

So there's lunch for Thursday. If you see Melissa's Soyrizo in the store you might want to try it out. It's definitely tasty. I want to try making my own vegan chorizo from scratch too though, as soon as possible. You'll see the results of that here in the blog of course.

Thanks for stopping by today. See everybody on Friday!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Vegan Honey Mustard Chicken Sandwich

Whew! My schedule was really screwed up today, so I didn't get a chance to log on really quick at lunchtime and do my posting like I normally do. But as you can see, I ended up bringing a vegan chicken sandwich made with one of those Boca Chik'n Patties that I had been searching for. I have FINALLY located a good local grocery chain that carries them, and they are even on sale this week! They normally are $3.28 a box (there are 4 patties in each box) at this store, but this week, they're only $2.50 a box. Needless to say, I bought a bunch. I just left the top part of the whole wheat bun off for photgraphic purposes. After I took the pic I replaced the top of the sandwich and closed the lid of the lunchbox with no problem.

I eat a lot of these things, and I normally eat them with Vegenaise & pickles. Today though, I brought something to put on my sandwich that I only recently figured out. I'm sure lots of other people already do this, but I had never seen it mentioned before so I kinda' had to "invent" it for myself. I always like honey mustard with my chicken (be it a sandwich, a nugget or whatever) back when I was an omnivore so I got to thinking, "How could I make honey mustard without using any honey?" After a few minutes of thinking, the answer became obvious: Maple Syrup! I just mixed some spicy brown mustard with some maple syrup and lo and behold it tastes just like honey mustard. I guess you should probably really call it a maple-mustard sauce, but I just like calling it Vegan Honey Mustard, since that's how I think of it.

Like I said, most people have probably already thought of this, and I guess the whole maple syrup and mustard flavor is really a common one in cooking. I think there is even a recipe for green beans in my favorite cookbook, Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, that uses the maple and mustard flavors. I need to check into that, because I really like the flavor of these two ingredients when you mix them together.

To go along with the sandwich I threw in some more of those steamed mixed vegetables, some raw baby carrots and the last of that little bag of dates that I had in the fridge.

So today's lunch ended up being really delicious as well as extremely easy to prepare. All I really had to do was squirt a little mustard in the little blue lunchbox container and then pour in a little maple syrup and mix it all up. Everything else was really easy. In fact, I have discovered that with the steamed vegetables, they come out just fine if you just pack them in your lunchbox while still frozen. They'll probably thaw out on their own before you eat lunch, and a simple zap in the microwave for a minute or two is all that's required to finish them off.

Oh, and for future reference, the little lunchbox dressing container holds MORE than enough vegan honey mustard for one sandwich. I ended up drowning my sandwich with the stuff. It was quite messy, but oh so good. And the container was still half full, even after that. I had been worried that the little container was going to be too small, but boy was I wrong.

So I guess that's it for Wednesday's lunch.

Thanks for reading my blog and I'll see everybody tomorrow!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Beans & Cornbread

Today's lunch was a really easy one to prepare because it only involved cooking a couple of things from scratch. It's still colder than whiz here, so I wanted something hot for lunch again. I thought about some type of pasta or something like that, but then I finally decided on making something more along the lines of "country food" and ended up fixing a bunch of beans & cornbread.

I didn't bother making the beans from scratch. I know that when you soak them and cook them yourself they taste a whole lot better, plus you can reduce the huge amount of sodium that they put into the canned beans, but time was of the essence when I packed the lunch so I relied on canned beans. All I did was dump a can of Pinto Beans and a can of Great Northern Beans together in a pot and heat them up. I usually just buy the cheap store brand of beans, but the last time I was in the store I did glance at a few of the other brands. Geez, you really have to pay attention when buying those things. I never realized that so many canned vegetables were seasoned with pork. On some brands it was obvious, because they would put it in huge letters and advertise it as a plus. On other brands, however, it was mentioned nowhere and you had to study the ingredients to find out it was in there.

To accompany the beans, I brought some more of those steamed mixed vegetables that I got out of the freezer section at the local grocer the other day. These are, again, just the cheap store brand. They're really good though, and I bought a huge bag, so they'll probably be appearing in the lunchbox quite frequently this week.

I also cooked up some Rosemary Roasted Potatoes using the standard old method. It's just potatoes & onions roasted in some olive oil, garlic salt & rosemary. Yummy.

Then I made some cornbread muffins using my favorite cornbread recipe, but I altered them just a little bit this time. I make these all the time, and they're really good, but sometimes I thought that they were a little too crumbly, like they didn't hold together quite enough for me. I assumed that was due to the fact that there was no egg in them. So this time when I made them, I replaced half of the flour with some ground flax seed. I know that you can use this as an egg replacer due to the large amount of soluble fiber in it, which makes this nice big slimy mess when you get it wet, so I thought it might do a good job of holding the cornbread together a little bit better. Plus, I would be adding lots of fiber. So that's what I did. You can really see the flax seed in the cornbread, but it didn't alter the taste really. I think it did help hold them together a little bit better, so I'll probably do this from now on when I make cornbread.

So that does it for Tuesday's lunch. Not a lot of work, but a pretty good lunch for a really cold day.

Thanks for stopping by and I'll see you tomorrow.