Friday, March 30, 2007

Fruits & Veggies

After a week of lunches that included a good amount of fake meat and some processed foods (plus I ate pizza twice this week for dinner) I decided to simplify things for Friday and end the week with a lunchbox full of fruits & veggies. I'll admit, I did it for the sake of convenience too because there's really nothing easier than filling lunchbox containers with veggies. But they're delicious too and will make for a nice reduced calorie way to end this week. I'm gonna' have to be better this weekend than I was last weekend if I'm going to see any weight loss come Monday. I am determined to eat better this weekend and hopefully try to get in a couple of good walks. But anyway, back to the fruits & veggies...

In the green container I've got something that I had never tried before; Dill Green Beans. I just spotted them on the shelf the other day at the grocery store and they caught my eye. I thought they sounded interesting. It says on the can that they are good cold too, maybe as a snack. And boy are they right. These things are yummy. If you've never had them before, just imagine Green Beans in pickle juice and you've got a pretty good idea what they taste like. I like pickle juice, so I, of course, love these.

The purple container just contains some Cooked Carrots. I normally like to jazz these up with a little Brown Sugar and make them taste like the sweet carrots that you might get at a Japanese restaurant, but since I'm trying to cut calories I skipped the sugar this time. The Green Beans and the Carrots both came out of cans, which I know is not the best way to eat your vegetables. One of them has 13% of your Sodium RDA and the other has 15%, so that's not exactly great, but it was a convenient way to get some veggies and I made up for that (a little bit) with the other two choices in the lunchbox.

I've got a Blood Orange there in the red container that I've already peeled & sectioned. I absolutely LOVE these things, and I had never even tried one until a month or so ago. A coworker eats them all the time and finally convinced me to try one. There was no looking back. I've been eating these things like they're going out of style. DELICIOUS!

And then I whipped up a few more of the little things that I call Raw Fudgy Treats (because I can't think of a better name). They're just equal parts of Raisins & Walnuts processed in a food processor until they turn into a "dough" that you can roll up into little balls and then roll in Coconut, or Cocoa, or whatever you like.

So there you have it. I don't guess there's that much to say about a bunch of fruits & veggies. I really need to start having more of my lunchboxes look like this, well, maybe without the canned stuff. This stuff is extremely filling to me, especially when you consider the lower calorie count. You get a lot more "bang for the buck", which is exactly what I need if I'm gonna' get down to my goal weight any time soon.

I'll be back Monday with another lunchbox. I've got a few ideas in my head right now because there have been several really interesting recipes making the rounds on the internet here lately. If I have the time, and energy, on Sunday I might try whipping one of them up.

Thanks for reading my blog this week and I'll see everybody next week.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Filet-NO-Fish Sandwich

Hey everybody! Today's lunchbox contains something that I've been meaning to try for quite some time now, and I finally got around to making it. It's another idea that's floated around in my head, probably since I first became vegan, and I've always wondered what it would taste like. But when veganluv mentioned it in the comments section of one of my old blog posts, and confirmed that it was indeed yummy, then I knew that I needed to try it soon. I like to call this a Filet-NO-Fish Sandwich as a play on words with the name of a fish sandwich at a certain fast food restaurant. I used to eat those alot when I was a kid (HEY! I didn't know any better) and really liked them. Of course, what kid wouldn't like all that grease? I know I didn't make that name up because I swear I've seen it before, but when I did a Yahoo! search last night, I couldn't find a mention of it anywhere. Anyway, I don't think I made this name up, but I just like it. I think it's kinda' cool. A vegan fish sandwich... Who'da thunk it?

First of all, it's not really a fish sandwich (of course), but I mean it's not even a vegan fish sandwich really. It's just a Boca Chik'n Patty on a Light Hamburger Bun with half of a slice of Tofutti American Cheese (vegan, of course). What makes it taste like a fish sandwich is the addition of a bunch of Vegan Tartar Sauce, which I packed in its own little blue container to keep it from making my sandwich all soggy before lunch. I searched the internet for recipes for Tartar Sauce and there were all kinds of them, all with different ingredients. So, I finally just decided to wing it and throw together whatever ingredients I had on hand and see what I came up with. I just took a small bowl and plopped in a couple of Tbsp. of Grapeseed Oil Vegenaise. Then I stirred in just a tiny little squirt of Yellow Mustard. I squeezed in a few drops of fresh Lemon Juice and then added some Sweet Pickle Relish and Capers until it looked like the right amount of "stuff" swimming around in my Tartar Sauce. I tasted it. YUMMY! I made Tartar Sauce!

I took it one step further then. Just to make SURE that this was gonna' taste like a fish sandwich, I rehydrated a little Hijiki in some hot water and then drained it and stirred it into my homemade Tartar Sauce. So really, the "fishy" taste comes from the sauce and not the patty. WHO CARES!?!?! This is delicious and tastes very similar to what I remember a fish sandwich tasting like. I don't know that I'll eat it that often while I'm still trying to lose some more weight because of the fat in the Tofutti cheese and in the Tartar Sauce. But it's definitely a vegan treat that I'll add to my list to enjoy from time to time.

To go along with my fish sandwich I brought some Lay's Light Potato Chips (the fat-free kind fried in Olestra), some Sweet Yellow Corn and for dessert, just a few Raisins, since that sandwich is a little bit high in calories for someone trying to cut back.

I'm also happy to report that I did finally break down and work in my yard last night and it was HARD WORK. I was probably out there at least a couple of hours sweating up a storm. Combined with my lunchtime walk yesterday though, that gave me a good amount of exercise yesterday. I got my walk in during lunch today too, so the exercise thing is going really good this week. Hopefully I'll be rewarded when I weigh in this weekend.

So there you have it, another tasty vegan clone of one of my (unhealthy) childhood favorites. On a side note, have you seen their commercials where they are actually putting TWO deep fried fish patties on those fast food sandwiches now?!?! That is just INSANE!

Well, thanks for coming by the blog today and I'll see everybody on Friday!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Grilled Portobello Sandwich

Today's lunch was a lot easier to fix than my previous one, but it's still every bit as delicious. A Grilled Portobello Sandwich is right up there in my top 10 list of things to eat. In fact, it seems like it's sometimes the only vegan option at some restaurants, other than salads of course. Whenever I order one out at a restaurant I always have them leave off any cheese or mayo that they might normally add, and I learned once, early on in my veganism, to make sure and ask that they don't put any butter on the bun because a lot of places seem to like to butter the buns and grill them. I like toasted buns, but no butter please. :o)

I actually made this sandwich kinda' out of necessity since I had a Portobello Mushroom cap hanging out in my fridge from where I was experimenting with those veggie burgers last week. I would REALLY hate for something like that to end up getting thrown away. So I just grilled it up last night in a skillet with a little bit of Soy Sauce and then threw it onto a Light Bun and topped it off with some Roasted Red Peppers, which are packed in water by the way. Fairly low-calorie for such a delicious sandwich, I think.

In the green container I've got some Hoppin' John, which is just a mix of Stewed Tomatoes, Black-Eyed Peas, Onions & Jalapeno Peppers. It's spicy and delicious. Not too many calories there either. I've seen several recipes on the internet for making your own, but this just came out of a can from the grocery store and it did NOT list any type of pork product in the ingredients (apparently it's common to season this with pork when people make it at home).

While looking for food items that I needed to get rid of, I also stumbled upon a few Sugar Snap Peas that were left so into the lunchbox they went. And then for dessert I just tossed in a few Dried Apricots that I spotted on sale at the store a couple of weeks ago.

So I guess that does it for Wednesday's lunch. Shew, that was a lot easier than yesterday's post. [grin]

Believe it or not, I've actually been getting my extra exercise in that I wanted to do this week. I've been doing my normal walk during lunch and then doing another 30 minutes in the evening after work. I guess I'll get some extra exercise in this evening after work too because I'm gonna' have to break down and finally mow the yard. ARGH! Hopefully, all of this extra physical activity will translate into a few lost pounds come Monday.

So thanks for checking in today and I'll see everybody tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Vegan Chicken & Dumplings

Okay, I'm on to something here folks. This is a recipe that I've made up and it's been floating around in my head for probably close to six months now. Well, I finally got around to trying it last night, just to see what I would end up with, and all I can say is that it is AMAZING. This is so close to the Chicken & Dumplings that I used to make back when I ate meat that it's scary. I was actually surprised at how well it came out for a first try. The main thing that I DID learn is that I need to add more vegetable broth at the end next time because it was just a little bit short on the liquid part. Not bad though. I think I'll also try leaving all of the fat out of the dumpling part next time too because I mean, do you really need it if the dumplings are going to be absorbing all that moisture from the broth? I don't think so. The "chicken" in this dish is actually a simple seitan, but don't worry, you just make it as you go along and it's really easy. It doesn't require hours of cooking either. I made this batch, from start to finish, in probably 75-80 minutes. So what did I do?

First, get a big pot, like you would cook spaghetti in, and mix up your cooking broth. This is what you will cook the chicken-style seitan that you make in, and it will also become the liquid part of the Chicken & Dumplings. It's YUMMY! Just stir all of this together in your big pot:

4 cups water
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
4 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp rubbed sage (the dried powdery kind in the little metal spice can)
1/2 tsp rubbed thyme (the dried powdery kind in the little metal spice can)
1/2 tsp celery seed
1/8 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp salt
I put it a little fresh ground black pepper also, not much, just a few turns of the pepper mill

Now, get this started heating up to boiling, and while that happens, in a mixer (I used a KitchenAid mixer with the paddle attachment, NOT the dough hook) stir together the following:

1 cup vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup chickpea flour (besan flour)
1 cup water

Let this knead for 5 minutes or so until your broth is boiling, then turn the heat down to simmer and, once it's not vigorously boiling anymore take your big rubbery ball of gluten that you made and start pulling off really small pieces with your fingers and dropping them into the broth (Don't let the broth boil anymore from this point forward or your seitan will puff up too much). You want to make sure that the pieces are really small, smaller than you would want a bite of "chicken" to be because they will swell up quite a bit as they cook. This took a couple of minutes because I tore my pieces off really small. Just remember that each little piece that you drop in there will be one bite of "chicken", so keep them very small.

Now, just cover this pot and let the stuff simmer for an hour or so. I let mine go 60 minutes. Who knows, you might be able to get away with 45 minutes since there's another 20 minutes of cooking once you add the dumplings. But I cooked mine for an hour. Briefly remove the cover and stir everything around every 10-15 minutes or so just to keep everything separated.

When you get close to the end of your cooking time, then you can start mixing up the dumplings. In a bowl, mix these things together:

2 cups flour
5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Now cut in (with a fork):
2 tbsp Earth Balance Margarine
2 tbsp vegetable shortening

I dare say that you could probably leave all of this fat out completely since the dumplings will be so moist from steam cooking in the broth. Now just stir in Soy Milk with a fork until you get a nice ball of dough that you can work with. I have no idea about the amount. I just keep pouring a little in at a time and stirring with a fork. When it's absorbed all of the flour and the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl, then I know it's ready.

I poured in 3/4 cup of vegetable broth into the pot at this point just to increase the amount of liquid. It will thicken up from the flour in the dumplings. Next time though, I think I need to add at least another whole 15 oz. can of vegetable broth (in addition to the 3/4 cup) because mine came out a little short on liquid. I guess it just depends on how "soupy" you want it. At this point, I also turned the heat up on my pot a little bit to MED-LOW. Now, just uncover the pot and pinch off little pieces of the dough and drop into the broth, just like you did with the gluten. I like to keep these small too. You can also roll this out and cut it into little squares and drop into the broth, but I like mine dropped on top like this. Now, after you get all that dropped in, just replace the lid and let them cook for about 10 minutes like that, then uncover them and let them cook another 10 minutes or so, until you think they are done. Then just give the whole thing a good stir and you're done!

This recipe still needs a little bit of work, but not much. Probably just figuring out the exact amount of veggie broth to add at the end. The texture of the "chicken" pieces is so much like those little cubes of real chicken in those cheap frozen pot pies that it is frightening. This is gonna' be one of my favorite vegan comfort foods, I can already tell you. This would be a good way to start out making a Vegan Chicken Pot Pie too. Anyway, if any of you try this I would interested to hear what you think about it, and what you try different. If you liked Chicken & Dumplings when you were an omnivore (if you ever were) then you NEED to make this. It's good.

To go along with the Chicken & Dumplings I just brought some veggies; some Peas & Carrots and some Sweet Yellow Corn. And for dessert I just threw together some Sunflower Seeds, some Raisins & a few Dried Apricots.

So there you have it, my yummy lunch for Tuesday. I even gave a couple of bites of it to an omnivore at work and they confirmed that this DOES indeed taste like Chicken & Dumplings. WOW!

So thanks for checking out my blog today and I'll see everybody on Wednesday.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Vegan "Chicken" Nuggets

Today's lunch is one that I just threw together really quickly last night because it was pretty late when I got home. This weekend was BEAUTIFUL here in Tennessee and I just HAD to get out of town for the weekend. When I got back home and started thinking about lunch for today, it became obvious that I was probably going to be relying on storebought vegan items to feed me today. The main star of today's lunchbox is one of my favorite pre-made vegan items that you can find in the freezer section of almost any regular old grocery store.

Boca Chik'n Nuggets are pretty much just like the Chicken Nuggets I remember from my omnivore days. They taste just like their Chik'n Patties, and I assume they're probably made out of exactly the same ingredients, just formed into a different shape. I like to keep these on hand in the freezer at all times. They make good snacks, and you can even use them to make a reduced calorie version of a Chicken Sandwich should you run out of patties. I'll probably be showing that in the lunchbox pretty soon because I've been doing it a lot here lately with this whole weight loss thing. I've got some vegan Barbecue Sauce there in the little blue container for dipping my nuggets into. It's just storebought too. I just checked the label to make sure that it didn't have honey, or anything else not vegan, in it.

In the green container I've got an interesting mix of vegetables that I spotted in the freezer section at the store. There's corn in there, along with black beans, onions, green pepper and red pepper. Plus they're seasoned kind of in a Mexican style with some spices & Lime Juice. They're actually really good. I'll probably be buying these quite a bit from now on, or making something similar on my own.

And then I've got an Apple Pie Larabar for dessert. My favorite. Then I kinda' ended it there and left the lunchbox at that. I mean, I probably could have squeezed in another container or so, with some more food in it, but since the nuggets have quite a few calories, as does the Larabar, I figured I'd better stop with what I had if I plan on losing any weight this week.

And speaking of losing weight, I lost another 2 pounds last week. I've been at this for 5 weeks now and have lost a total of 18 pounds. I started out at 225 lbs., the most I have ever weighed, and I weighed in this weekend at 207 lbs. I actually weighed less than that at one point during last week, but I kinda' ate (and drank) more than I should this weekend since it was so nice outside, so I sort of hurt myself a little bit there in the end. Oh well. I'll take the 2 pound loss and keep chugging along. I'm thinking about upping the exercise a little this week and trying to get more walking in. I guess we'll see how that goes. I'd like to walk during lunch, while I'm at work, and then maybe fit in another walk in the evening, after work.

So there's my lunch for Monday. Pretty much NO work on my part, and still yummy. Thank goodness for pre-packaged vegan food.

Thanks for coming by today. See everybody tomorrow!

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Ultimate Veggie Burger 2.0

Well, I started this week's lunches with a veggie burger, so I figured I might as well end it the same way. It's not just any old veggie burger though, it's completely homemade and it's my second attempt to create the Ultimate Veggie Burger. And like I said before, while I also really love other types of veggie burgers made with nuts or smashed up beans & veggies, and stuff like that, my goal with this particular burger is to make a veggie burger that is the best copy of an actual beef burger possible. Something that you would take to a cookout and the omnivores wouldn't even suspect that your burger was vegan, and if you told them, then they would all be dying to try it and they would actually LIKE it. That's what I'm shooting for. This was my second attempt. I made some progress, but also suffered a small setback, which I think is easily correctable. So, here's the story.

I started out again just using the recipe from over at Bunnyfoot's blog, which is based on a Bryanna Clark Grogan recipe. These were really good the first time I made them. Even if I just made these straight from the recipe from now on, I would be happy with them, and they would be my favorite veggie burgers. There's no comparison to storebought stuff, these are so much better. But this time, I wanted to alter the recipe a little bit and try to make it taste "meatier". The first thing that came to mind was Portobello Mushrooms. I mean, just grilling an entire Portobello Mushroom Cap on the grill and then slapping it on a bun tastes an awful lot like meat to most people. So I took one huge Portobello Mushroom Cap and ground it up in the food processor until it was ground pretty fine. I basically want it to disappear into the texture of the veggie burger, because that was already perfect, and just contribute to the meaty taste. I added 1/2 cup of this to the burger recipe. I also chopped up a yellow onion, pretty fine, and added 1/2 cup of that to the mix also.

I purchased a cheap plastic thing at the store that helps you make uniform patties, but I'm not sure that I like it. I thought I would prefer a larger thinner patty, but now that I've made them, I think I kinda' liked the thicker hand-patted type patty. It made it seem more like a hamburger, more homemade and less processed. Making the patties thinner also makes them a little more fragile and a little more difficult to flip halfway through the oven baking part. I'll probably just form them by hand from now on.

The Mushroom & Onion definitely improved on the taste of the burgers. They are quite delicious. The only problem was that the extra moisture from the Mushroom & Onion, which I didn't compensate for, changed the texture of the burgers and made them a little bit softer, or as I like to say, smushier. They were still firm, but not as firm as the original batch. I think that could be remedied easily just by adding some more Vital Wheat Gluten, maybe bumping it up from 2/3 cup to a whole cup. That's probably what I'll try next. And I assume I'll probably need to increase all of the other flavorings like the soy sauce and stuff by 50% so the flavor doesn't get watered down by the extra gluten. So that's what I plan on trying next. These are good though. The taste is better than the first batch, and it's definitely the "meatiest" veggie burger that I have ever eaten. So stay tuned. I might work on this more next week.

To go along with my burger I just brought some Sweet Yellow Corn and some Peas & Carrots. Just frozen veggies that I dumped into the lunchbox containers, still frozen, last night. They'll be thawed by lunchtime and a quick zap in the microwave will get them all nice & steamy.

For dessert, I brought along an Apple Pie Larabar. This is probably my favorite flavor of Larabars and I consume quite a few of them a week, usually for breakfast. I like them because they are vegan, they are raw, they taste good and they are ultra-convenient for eating as a quick breakfast while driving to work in the morning.

So I guess that does it for another week of vegan lunches. I'll continue working on the veggie burger until I get it just the way that I want it, and then I'll post the entire recipe & process here so you can try it. It looks like it's going to be a beautiful weekend here in Tennessee. I get to leave work early today and I can't wait to get out there and start enjoying this beautiful weather.

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

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Vegan Dining Out @ Cootie Brown's

Well, I ended up going out to eat for lunch today because I wanted to share a new delicious vegan meal that I just discovered with you all. Well, I wanted to eat it too, of course. But I ended up going to Cootie Brown's again. They're probably the most vegan-friendly place I can think of to eat in either Kingsport (where I work) or in Johnson City (where I live). I actually used to work there for a little while as a part-time second job a loooooooong time ago, so I'm at least a little familiar with what goes into their food. I know the manager of the one in Kingsport too, so I don't have any trouble going up and asking him about food ingredients, and he actually knows what veganism is, so that's extremely helpful. Their menu contains several different types of veggie burgers, all of which can be made vegan by leaving off any cheese, mayo or butter, and several different types of pizza, which can all be made vegan by leaving off any cheese or meat. I opted for the pizza today because it's so easily veganized and honestly, their toppings are so varied and so delicious that putting cheese on them (even if you aren't vegan) would, in my opinion, just drown out the tastes of the really good stuff.

I ended up ordering a half of a Carribean Pizza. You can order either a whole pizza, or just a half of one, and they have both regular crust and whole wheat crust. I got the whole wheat. Their pizza crusts are really tasty too because they actually grill them on a grill. Sometimes there's grill marks and everything and they taste all nice & smoky. So much better than just a plain old pizza crust. They're very thin and crispy also, which is just how I like my pizza crust. And this particular pizza, once you get them to leave the cheese & chicken off, comes topped with olive oil (just lightly brushed on the crust, not too much at all), baby spinach, artichokes, portobello mushrooms, pica-dillo (mangos, pineapple and mandarin oranges), and a reduced Jamaican Jerk Sauce drizzled all over the top. This is VERY delicious, and I couldn't even imagine drowning out the flavor of the Jerk Sauce and all those yummy fruits & veggies with a bunch of cheese. Eating it without it actually made me glad that I was a vegan so that I could enjoy all those flavors. P.S. If you click on the picture then you can view the large version in a new window which really lets you see everything on the pizza a lot better. :o)

This will probably be one of my favorite things to eat for a while and I'll probably end up ordering it at home all the time until I get tired of it. If I do though, there are several other easily veganized pizzas there that I want to try at some point, especially that Mexican one. You'll probably see me go through all of them eventually here in the blog because I'll probably be eating there quite a bit now that the weather is turning nice. The walls of the entire restaurant open up and turn the whole place into one big outdoor dining space, which is really cool, and a really nice place to eat in the middle of the day when you're at work. Kinda' like a mini-vacation.

So there you have it, my latest vegan discovery, and a yummy one at that. Proving once again that it's not too difficult to eat vegan out at restaurants if you just choose carefully and ask a few questions and make a few requests. Yeah, I had to work a little bit asking about dough ingredients and sauce ingredients, but it really wasn't THAT much trouble. And getting something as yummy as this pizza to eat, while still eating vegan, makes it worth it.

Thanks for reading my blog today. See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Black Bean & Vegan Cheese Nachos

Well, I was back in the kitchen yesterday evening trying another one of Joanna's test recipes for her upcoming cookbook. I've been looking for a while for a good vegan "cheese" sauce for nachos because all of the ones that I have tried so far from my cookbooks have seemed to be a little lacking. Everything else that I've made from Joanna's tester recipes has been really good, so I assumed that her cheese sauce probably was too. I'm happy to report that it IS indeed good, and it's now on my official list of things that I will be making all the time from this point forward. I'm not sure why I like this so much better than other vegan cheese sauces that I have made, but I do. Maybe it's just that my tastes have changed enough since becoming vegan that I actually LOVE nutritional yeast now, or maybe it's just that Joanna is magic. Who knows.

I also whipped up a nice big skillet full of a double batch of her Refried Black Beans, which are also one of my favorite things to eat now. Then I just threw both of those things together with some Tortilla Chips and some Jalapeno Peppers and TA-DAH! Black Bean & Vegan Cheese Nachos. I packed everything separately in the lunch box, of course, but when I tested this out at home last night I just piled it all in one big pile in a bowl and dug in. DELICIOUS!

There's no fat at all added to the Cheese Sauce or the Refried Black Beans, so they're super duper healthy. The Tortilla Chips, however, were a bit of a problem. I wanted to get some baked ones, to try and save some calories on the fat, but there wasn't a single bag of baked tortilla chips at the grocery store that I go to. There was a bag that was cooked in Olestra, which I like, but they were HUGE triangular chips and wouldn't fit in the lunchbox very well at all. So I ended up buying just regular old Tostitos, in the little round version. Since they're fried, they, of course, have more fat in them than I would like. A serving is only 140 calories though, and there's 24 chips in a serving (that's a whole serving in the lunchbox). So when you consider that, plus the fact that everything else in the lunchbox is really quite healthy, then I guess it's not too bad for someone trying to lose some pounds. Well, it could be worse.

When I tasted the cheese sauce last night and realized that I really liked it, I couldn't help but feel like I had tasted it somewhere before. Then it finally dawned on me. It tasted just like the cheesy stuff in that Macaroni & Cheese that I brought a while back using the New Farm Cookbook recipe that was posted in a thread over at The PPK. That was the most delicious vegan Macaroni & Cheese that I have ever made, but it was FULL of fat. This Cheese Sauce that I brought today is FAT FREE and tastes just as good. So I think, from now on, if I want Macaroni & Cheese, I will probably just whip up some of Joanna's Cheese Sauce and stir IT up in macaroni and skip all that fat in the other recipe. I'll try that someday soon and bring it in the lunchbox.

It's absolutely BEAUTIFUL here today outside, so we made sure that we got our walking in during lunch.

And I can't wait until either tomorrow or Friday to go out and eat for lunch so I can show you all something new that I discovered in one of my favorite local restaurants. Of course, we don't have any exclusively vegan, or even vegetarian, restaurants right here where I live, but as you can see in some of my previous posts, there are are certain places where it's easier to eat vegan than in your typical fast food joint. I'm excited about posting about this delicious new dish that I found and I'll share it with you in a day or so.

So that does it for Wednesday's lunch. I LOVE nachos, and I used to eat WAY too much of them when I was an omnivore. This is actually the first vegan version that I have made that I really liked, so I am definitely going to have to be careful and not allow myself to pig out on these all the time and blow my diet. Of course, if I were to use the Light version of the chips, fried in Olestra, then I could significantly lower the calorie count, but it would still be calories, and I have a very hard time making myself stop eating nachos when there are still plenty left. Thank goodness for the lunchbox controlling my portions today or I probably would have been too stuffed to even get up and go for a walk. HA!

So thanks for stopping by today and I'll see everybody tomorrow! Adios!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Roasted Garlic & Spinach Pasta

Today's lunch ended up being something that I just whipped up at the last minute yesterday evening because I spent most of my time tinkering around with that veggie burger recipe from my previous post. I think that I definitely made a little bit of progress, but also realized another modification that I need to make in order to counteract a slight change in texture that my original change made, if that makes any sense. I'll share what I did, and the delicious results, either tomorrow or the next day because I made several burgers, and I'm experimenting with the whole freezing them thing too because once that recipe is perfected I want to be able to spend big chunks of time, like on weekends, cranking these things out so I can keep myself stocked up with a good supply.

For today's lunch though, I just whipped up a quick pasta dish by boiling some Whole Wheat Spaghetti for 12 minutes or so. Then I drained it, returned it to the hot pot and added 1 Tbsp. of Olive Oil. I threw in some fresh Baby Spinach leaves and wilted them down, and then added some nice big chunks of Roasted Garlic that I had cooked up in a skillet. I guess, technically, that's not roasted, but that's what I like to call it. I just love great big pieces of garlic when you cook them until they get all nice and brown and sweet. YUM! The only fat I added to the dish was the tablespoon of Olive Oil, and this is just a small portion of the entire pot of pasta in my lunchbox today, so this is actually semi-healthy.

To go along with my pasta, instead of bringing a bunch of bread like I used to do, I brought some yummy veggies instead. I had some fresh Asparagus hanging out in the fridge that I REALLY needed to use. I bought it a while back when I spotted it on sale and hadn't used any of it yet. I just put a few pieces in a Corningware covered dish, sprinkled some water on it and then popped it into the microwave for a couple of minutes. I like cooking it that way because it makes it so green, and it stays so crisp & crunchy. Rather than mix up some kind of lemon based sauce to go with the Asparagus, I took the easy way out and just threw a slice of fresh lemon on there. After I heat this up at work in the microwave then I'll just squeeze the lemon juice all over it. Mmmmm... I love Asparagus.

Then I've got some more Peas & Carrots from the freezer. I didn't like these a whole lot when I first started bringing them. They were okay, but not great, because peas have never been one of my most favorite things in the world, but I'm really starting to like these. I actually look forward to eating them now, because of their taste, and no longer pack them JUST to be packing something healthier. So that's good.

And finally, for dessert, I brought some more of those, what I like to call Raw Fudgy Treats, which are just equal parts of raisins and walnuts processed in the food processor until they magically turn into this "dough" that you can roll up into balls. I swear they taste like fudge. I tried to jazz mine up a little bit by trying an idea from over at Vegan Lunch Box and I rolled them in Cocoa Powder. They just immediately soaked it up though, which made them have this wet Cocoa outside, which is kinda' messy, but it definitely tastes good. I guess if I wanted them to have a dry coating of Cocoa Powder then I would probably have to completely pack them in it until the outsides got dry enough to not get the Cocoa wet anymore. Maybe I'll just stick to rolling mine in Coconut, or nothing at all. These make great desserts for lunches when you discover that there's nothing sweet in the house to pack. They are yummy and extremely rich.

So that does it for Tuesday. This was easy to fix, and it's one of my favorite ways to eat pasta. In fact, it's one of the things that I always keep in my mind when dining out in case I have to do a special request for a vegan meal, because almost any restaurant that serves pasta could make something like this with no problem. I haven't had to resort to asking for it yet, but you never know.

Thanks for reading my blog today. See everybody on Wednesday!

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Ultimate Veggie Burger 1.0

Well, I was cooking up a storm this weekend and I have firmly resolved to develop the ULTIMATE veggie burger within the next couple of weeks. I am calling this one The Ultimate Veggie Burger 1.0 because there will be several versions as I continue to tweak and improve the recipe. I couldn't believe how well this first try came out, especially in the appearance department, I mean look at that thing. It looks exactly like a beef hamburger! I would dare say that if this were on a grill with some meat-based hamburgers you wouldn't be able to tell them apart, except maybe for the tons of grease pouring out of the meat ones. The appearance is almost right on, even on this first version, and the taste and texture aren't bad. Let me tell you a little bit more about it.

I ended up FINALLY trying this veggie burger recipe over at Bunnyfoot's blog. I believe it is, in turn, based on a recipe from Bryanna Clark Grogan, who is, of course, one of my vegan idols. I had been wanting to try this for quite some time, because it sounded like the combination of Vital Wheat Gluten and TVP might be the key to achieving the texture of an actual hamburger. Now, don't get me wrong, I like all of the other types of veggie burgers too, you know, the ones based on nuts or smashed up beans and things like that, the ones that are just delicious being what they are, not trying to copy a beef hamburger. Right now though, I am intent on developing this recipe to turn it into the best copy of a beef hamburger that I can. There's no need to really worry any more about the appearance, because the appearance is perfect. These tasted good too, but they taste more like the VwaV Veggie Burgers than say, a real beef hamburger.

I can remember lots of tricks from other veggie burger recipes I have tried in the past for making them taste "meaty". I plan on trying all of them until I find just the right combination. Some of the things I plan on adding to the mix are chopped onion, Portobello Mushrooms, maybe Dale's Seasoning (that soy sauce based stuff that people use to grill meat with), peanut butter?, walnuts?, Montreal Steak Seasoning, vegan Worcestershire Sauce, and who knows what else? I also plan on getting to Walgreens at some point because supposedly they sell these "Beef Bullion" cubes that are so cheap that they're vegan. I don't know if that's true or not, but I've heard it and plan on checking it out. Needless to say, there's lots of experimenting to do, so you might be seeing veggie burgers pop up pretty often in the lunchbox here in the near future. As soon as I get everything perfected, I will post the entire recipe and procedure here. Until then, if you'd like to experiment yourself, just use the recipe over at Bunnyfoot's blog because that's where I am starting.

This should be really interesting because these burgers are already fantastic. There's so much that you could do for the taste though, that once they're really jazzed up, they may be worthy of the title of Ultimate Veggie Burger. I guess we'll see huh?

To go along with my burger, which is on a Light Wheat Bun by the way, I brought some Lay's Light Potato chips. They're the ones that are fat-free since they're fried in Olestra. That stuff doesn't hurt my tummy, so they're just fine to me. I do have friends though who can't eat it because it messes with their insides. Looking at my lunch today though, I could smack myself for spending $3.49 on that bag of chips when I could have just whipped up some of those Microwave Potato Chips that I like to make. I'll bring them later this week when I try my first changes to the veggie burger recipe.

And then, to finish out the lunchbox, I brought some veggies. I've got some Peas & Carrots and some Sweet Yellow Corn, both of which just came from the freezer section of the local grocery store. I've mentioned before, that I just dump these in the lunchbox frozen and then they're thawed out by lunch time. A quick 45 seconds or so in the microwave, covered with some Glad Press-n-Seal, and they are good to go.

No dessert for me today since I've got that big veggie burger and I'm still trying to lose weight. I don't think I need any anyway because this is PLENTY of food. That veggie burger is HUGE! It's only got a couple of grams of fat too, so that's good.

Well, it's Monday, so I guess I need to update everybody on how my weight loss is going. It's now been 4 weeks since I started at my highest weight ever of 225 lbs. Last week, I weighed in at 211 pounds, so I had lost 14 pounds in 3 weeks. I ate pretty good last week, and got my exercise in as best I could. I actually only got to walk 4 out of 5 days because it poured down rain one day. But when I weighed myself this morning I weighed 209 lbs. So I lost another 2 pounds last week. YEAH! That means that I've lost a total of 16 pounds in 4 weeks. Not too shabby. Just 4 more pounds and I'll be halfway to my goal of losing at least 40 pounds.

It's kinda' slow going now, only losing a pound or two a week, but that's the healthy way to do it. Plus I have gotten encouragement from the fact that I actually LOOK like I am losing weight now, I can see it in the mirror, and I assume everyone else can too. Plus, I actually got to move in another belt notch last week. So that's good.

So that does it for Monday's lunch & weight loss update. I am really excited about messing around with these veggie burgers because grilling season is almost here and I would LOVE to have some awesome veggie burgers available to impress all of my meat-eating friends with. I want to make these things so good that they'll all actually want to try them, and LIKE them! I guess that's a pretty lofty goal, but I guess we'll see what happens.

Thanks for coming by today. See everybody tomorrow!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Morningstar Egg Facts

I thought I would take a little bit of time this weekend for a little cyber activism and do a quick post about an issue that I think is important, and something that we could all really make a difference in. You may already be aware of this campaign, but just in case you're not, I wanted to help spread this information to as many people as possible. If you're a vegan, and you went through the stage of being a vegetarian before you became vegan, then you might have been like me and practically LIVED on Morningstar Farms® products. Boy, do I miss those Grillers Prime Burgers. I was very discouraged when I became vegan because I could no longer consume their products due to that devlish "contains less than 2% of the following: egg whites, blah, blah, blah." I just never understood how that tiny amount of egg could make a huge difference in the product. It was obviously possible to make similar products without the eggs, several other comapnies do, and I, of course, transitioned over to eating their products.

But now, Compassion Over Killing and Vegan Outreach are teaming up with compassionate people everywhere to ask Morningstar Farms® to stop using eggs in its product line.

Morningstar Farms®, which is owned by the Kellogg® company, was approached in September 2005 about its use of eggs in its products, all of which come from hens confined inside barren wire battery cages. Battery caged hens are typically provided with a meager 67 square inches of space in which to live—that’s less than the size of one sheet of notebook paper. These birds are so intensively confined for their entire lives that they are denied their natural inclinations to spread their wings, perch, preen, or even walk.

Morningstar Farms® has long been a leader in supplying delicious vegetarian foods to a growing market. Let them know that the market also wants them to remove their support from the cruel battery egg industry and encourage them to join with companies like Gardenburger®, which last year announced it has taken eggs out of all its products except for one private-sourced item.

Please contact Morningstar Farms® and politely request that they remove eggs from their products. Let them know one of their biggest competitors, Gardenburger®, has already made this decision for all but one of its products.

All of the information needed to contact them via a variety of methods is available at the campaign's website:


I just wanted to share this information in case some of you might not be aware of this campaign. I will be contacting Morningstar Farms® to tell them my story, and how I wish I could still enjoy their products, and I urge all other people concerned with the plight of battery hens to do the same.

Thank you so much! Our efforts can not only help us to increase the number of vegan food options available to us, but also help free many hens from horrible lives in battery cages.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Tofu & Mushrooms with Soba Noodles

After today's lunch, I feel like I'm starting to get the hang of this making maximum use out of leftovers thing. You might remember that I baked some tofu several days ago in a previous post. Well, there was bunches of it leftover, and I didn't know if I would use all of it before it went bad if I put it in the fridge, so I just put it in a plastic container and plopped it into the freezer. Well, last night I just pulled another one of those "make it up as you go" cooking sessions and this is what I ended up with. It's actually really good. In fact, I was quite amazed at myself for just slinging it together. I believe my vegan powers are steadily increasing. HA!

All I did was thaw out the frozen tofu and then cube a couple of slices of it up. Then I just cooked up some mushrooms and some garlic in a skillet. I poured in a healthy dose of Soy Sauce and then, for some reason, I put in some Curry Powder. I don't know why I did it. I was just making it up and it seemed like a good thing to do. Finally, I added the cubed tofu and then sprinkled in a few frozen Peas & Carrots. I took that off the heat and then just boiled some water in another pot and then cooked some Soba Noodles for about 4 minutes. I drained those and then packed the whole thing up in the lunchbox. I had just a little bit left over which I, of course, tried last night. TASTY! Like I said, I was actually quite amazed at how good this was, and all it contained was pretty much just leftovers, and some frozen stuff. It was super easy to whip up and it tastes like something you would get in a restaurant, or at least like a really good frozen entree like something from Amy's Kitchen.

To go along with the main dish, I brought some Sweet Yellow Corn. That just came in a bag, frozen, from the local grocery store. I just pour that in the lunchbox container frozen and cover it with a little Glad Press-n-Seal. It's thawed out by the time lunch rolls around and then a quick 45 seconds or so in the microwave, with the Glad Press-n-Seal still on it, will get it all nice and hot and steamy for you.

And for dessert, I just brought some Blueberries. You may or may not remember, but these are just from one of several bags of Blueberries that I've still got stored in the freezer from last Summer. A friend of mine picked these not too far from my house, so these are just plain old Blueberries. No added sugar or anything. SO GOOD!

I've learned that I really like Soba Noodles a lot, since trying them for the first time last week. They were a little expensive at the regular grocery store, but I FINALLY made a trip this week to the local Asian Market and WOW! They've got tons of them for a whole lot cheaper. Their Soy Sauce was also, of course, a lot cheaper. I bought a great big bottle of it. I also picked up some of those Hot Wasabi Peas. I love snacking on those things. And then, I was so happy when I found some actual Durian fruit in the freezer section. Now, I had read all about Durian in reading up on Raw Food. Alissa Cohen even shows one in her DVD and serves it to two ladies who seem to like it. Now, I knew that the things supposedly stink, but the claim is that the yellow liquid in the big pods tastes like custard. Well, they got the stink part right. HOLY MOLY! This stuff stinks. I let one of the pods thaw out and then held my breath while I took a bite of it. I SO wanted to like it. I wanted it to taste like custard or vanilla pudding, but to me, it didn't. I spit it out in the sink and immediately ran downstairs to brush my teeth. YUCK! Durians and I are obviously not meant to be together. Woops! Sorry for getting off on a tangent there.

So that does it for Friday's lunch and another week of yummy vegan food.

Thanks for reading the blog this week and I'll see you on Monday, hopefully with some more weight loss to report.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Amy's Vegetable Pot Pie

Today for lunch I brought one of my favorite pre-made storebought vegan items, and that's the Non-Dairy Vegetable Pot Pie from Amy's Kitchen. You're probably already familiar with all of their products, but just in case you're not, everything that they make is vegetarian, and there are several items that are even vegan. Their packaging is awesome because they always tell you right there in huge letters right at the beginning of the ingredients list if something is VEGAN. That makes life so simple. I've been meaning to try bringing one of these for lunch for a while now because I figured that I could probably fit one into the lunchbox and luckily, I was right.

The Vegetable Pot Pie is just what you'd expect. Just like a Chicken Pot Pie, but without the chicken. If you look for this at the store, make sure you get the one that says NON-DAIRY, because I'm pretty sure that there is a second product that is very similar except it's just vegetarian, which I guess means that there's milk or cream in it. These things are delicious. I eat them at home all the time. The only drawback to them is the same drawback with all frozen pot pies, and that's the loooooooong cooking time required to reheat them. This one takes 25 minutes @ 400 degrees uncovered and then another 20 minutes covered with aluminum foil. I didn't discover until the thing was already in the oven yesterday evening that I didn't have any aluminum foil. CURSES! So I started thinking about it, I figured that the first 25 minutes uncovered were to cook the crust and get it all brown and then the second 20-25 minutes (covered) were probably just to finish thawing out and heating up the insides of the pie. So, I figured that I could take it out of the oven after the first 25 minutes and then just let it cool and pack it in the lunchbox. I figured the inside will finish thawing completely before I eat lunch, and then I could just heat the whole thing up in the microwave. I didn't know for sure if my bright idea would work or not, but I heated this up and enjoyed it just a little while ago and I am happy to report that it worked perfectly. So remember that if you ever take one of these for lunch. Just do the first half of the cooking in the oven at home and skip the second half. Then just heat it up for a couple of minutes in the microwave at lunchtime and it will come out perfect. I was actually a little shocked at how crispy the top crust still was, even after microwaving. It was just the way that I like it.

To go along with the Vegetable Pot Pie, I've got some Edamame and some Cherry Tomatoes. Again, I guess these are really the Grape Tomatoes, or whatever they're called, since they're more grape shaped than round. I don't know. I just like calling them Cherry Tomatoes.

And for dessert I threw in a Cashew Cookie Larabar. I thought about leaving the Larabar out, since the Pot Pie has 360 calories, but even with the Larabar (and at least it's just raw fruit & nuts), this is still probably better than I used to eat, even as a vegan. But since I knew I was going to be eating quite a few calories for lunch today, I made sure that I was very good at breakfast and, instead of eating another Larabar, I just ate a Grapefruit. So I saved a few calories there. The Pot Pie and veggies filled me up, so I may just save this Larabar until around 2PM or so and eat it then for a snack to help distribute my calories a little more evenly throughout the day.

So that does it for Thursday's lunch. It was super easy to fix since I let Amy's Kitchen help me. I always like to keep several of their products in the freezer for times like yesterday, when I don't have a lot of time to try and cook something. In fact, I just discovered several more products of theirs that I didn't even know were vegan (like the Tamale Pie) that I will have to try very soon. I think I saw it at the grocery store when I was there yesterday but I just assumed that it probably wasn't vegan, but according to their website it is. Yipee! Seems like eating vegan just gets easier & easier all the time.

Thanks for checking in today and I'll see everybody on Friday!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Vegan Dining Out @ Rush Street Grill

I didn't bring the lunchbox today because we had plans to meet our boss for lunch. It was decided that we would eat at a local place called Rush Street Grill. I've done a blog post on this place once before, when I had the Grilled Portobello Sandwich, which was delicious, but I wanted to get something different this time for the sake of a little variety. I browsed through the menu on their website and it looked like my only other choices would be some type of salad, some spaghetti with marinara sauce, or some type of veggie pizza. Well, this place is pretty well known for their pizza, and I used to eat it all the time back when I was an omnivore, and I loved it. I hadn't tried any vegan pizza from there yet, so that's what I decided I would get.

I skipped the salad thing, because the last time I did that at lunch with pizza I ended up so full that I was miserable. So this time I just ordered pizza. I know I could have just ordered the salad but HEY! I was in a pizza mood. The first thing I did when I got there was to ask the server to go back in the kitchen and find out for me whether their homemade pizza crust contained any milk or any butter. I think most thin pizza crust is probably safe, well Papa John's thin isn't so I guess I shouldn't say that, but if you want to be absolutely sure then you'll have to ask like I did. She came back and informed me that the crust did NOT contain either one of those ingredients, so I was good to go.

I just ordered an individual size 8" pizza with no cheese and just about every vegetable that you can think of. I've got spinach, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, black olives, fresh tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, roasted red peppers and roasted garlic on there. And I may have even forgotten one or two things. I just basically got every veggie on there that was available because after the 5th topping they're free (I guess that's because there's not much room to put much of anything else on there). As you can see, this thing was LOADED. I laughed when they brought it to me and said that it was a salad and a pizza in one. And that's not too far from the truth. It was delicious, just like I expected it to be. And talk about full. Sheesh! I ate the whole thing and I was stuffed. I don't think it'll be too bad for my diet though because the crust was really thin, and everything else on there was veggies.

So there you have it, an easy, and delicious, vegan dining experience. If there had been something non-vegan in the crust, then I probably would have opted for the pasta with marinara sauce, or tried to get them to fix me something special like spaghetti with some olive oil, roasted garlic, and wilted spinach in it or something like that. Luckily though, the pizza worked out fine.

We planned ahead today since we knew we would be going out for lunch and got our walking in early this morning. So even though I kinda' indulged a little bit for lunch, I DID get my exercise in today. So that's good.

So thanks for stopping by today.

I'll be back with the lunchbox tomorrow. See you then!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Sloppy Joannas & Lemon Butter Rice

I got fired up last night looking through the recipes over at Joanna's Test Kitchen and decided to try a couple of them for dinner last night. I tried to pick things that I knew would make a lot and would reheat well so that I could also use them for lunch today. Every one of her recipes that I have tried so far has been delicious, and these two were no exception. Her recipes are creative, very simple to prepare and absolutely delicious. That's one of the things I like about vegan cooking, it seems like most vegan recipes rely on fresh ingredients and "going all the way" with the simple things like lemon juice. What I mean by that is, before, when I was an omnivore, if a recipe called for lemon juice I would just use that icky stuff that comes in the little plastic lemon or in the green bottle. I wouldn't touch that stuff with a ten foot pole now. I don't look at veganism as something restrictive, or something that reduces my dining options, I choose to look at it as something that opens up a whole new universe of flavors & tastes. So now, as a vegan, if I'm cooking and a recipe calls for lemon juice, then I actually squeeze fresh lemons, and zest them. Cooking with REAL FOOD like that just makes everything taste so much better. I guess one reason why vegans would be like that is because we are conscious of what we are eating, don't you think? We pay attention to it. I guess most people just eat and never think twice about what they're eating. But when you are aware of what you are eating, and cooking, then you'll obviously do everything that you can to make it as good and tasty as you can. Well, I don't know how I got off on that rant. Sorry.

Today I made Sloppy Joannas, which are just a tastier vegan version of Sloppy Joes. They're obviously TVP based, but they contain a few more creative flavors than I am used to having in regular old Sloppy Joes. I packed the Sloppy Joanna in its own individual container so that it wouldn't get the bun all soggy before lunchtime arrived. And then, just to make it extra special, I went ahead and toasted the bun. Like I said before, since I'm paying attention to my food, I might as well make it taste as good as I can.

The side item in the little yellow container is Joanna's Lemon Butter Rice. WOW! This stuff is good. It's really simple, and you can tell from the name of it what the main flavors going on are. I just wasn't expecting the lemon flavor to be so intense, but it is off the charts, and I really like it! It took me a minute or so to get used to it after I started eating it because the flavor is so intense, but after that I was hooked. I think that just about anyone that you served this to would initially be surprised at how much flavor is in this, but then, like me, they would realize how delicious it actually is. I guess you can always alter the amounts of ingredients to change the taste however you like, but I like this stuff just the way it is. EXCELLENT!

And to finish filling the lunchbox I just threw in some Steamed Green Beans that came from the freezer section of the local grocery store. I thought about trying to squeeze some dessert in somewhere, but with the bun (which is at least a "light" bun) and the rice in today's lunch, I think I'd better leave that out if I wanna' see the scale go down any this week.

So there you have it. I think this makes four recipes that I have tried so far from Joanna's Test Kitchen. Like I said in a previous post, her new cookbook looks like it is going to be awesome and I can't wait until it comes out later this year. Trying these two recipes today just makes me want to try more and see what other delicious ideas she has come up with. Whenever I try something new I'm sure you'll see it on here. Oh, and by the way, she's got a blog started about the upcoming cookbook over at There are some AWESOME pictures of some of the recipes there and I think she said that she's even gonna' start posting a few of the recipes there in the blog as the release date of the book gets closer and closer.

We're meeting my boss tomorrow for lunch out at a restaurant (not sure where yet) so tomorrow's post may be a little delayed as I won't be able to post anything until after I get back from lunch and upload the picture. Hopefully I'll be able to wrangle up some yummy vegan food no matter where we eat. I guess we'll see.

Thanks for reading my blog today. See you on Wednesday.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Baked Italian Tofu

Well, I finally decided to try baking some tofu on my own last night. Whenever I have fixed tofu in the past, I always grilled it or just steamed it, so I never was really that satisfied with the texture. Then I tried that storebought stuff that was already prebaked and I saw how much baking the tofu seemed to improve the texture. So now, I've actually baked some myself. I basically used the method listed over at SusanV's Fatfree Vegan Kitchen. It's not complicated. Just marinate your tofu in some Soy Sauce or Bragg's and then bake it for 30 minutes or so. When I made mine, I sprinkled some Oregano and some Basil on halfway through the cooking time to give it the "Italian" flavor. It will be interesting to see how mine compares to the storebought baked stuff that I really liked. There was quite a bit left over. I may use it and make something similar to the Tempeh & Soba Noodle dish that I did not too long ago. I think that something like that would probably make good use of it.

To go along with the Baked Tofu, I brought a bunch of Raw Cauliflower that I needed to get rid of before it went South on me. I like Cauliflower, plus it always seems to really make me feel full. I could have brought along something to dip it in, but since I'm still trying to lose some weight for Summer, I figured I'd better skip that part. I like it plain anyway.

In the small purple container I've got some Peas & Carrots that just came from the freezer section of the local grocery store. I really bought these for use in a recipe that I've made up in my head and want to try sometime soon, but when I was packing lunch last night and looking for some veggies to put in it, I thought these would probably be a good choice since I practically never bring peas for my lunch. I used to really dislike peas when I was younger, but I like 'em now, especially when they are nice and sweet. I think it's so strange how your tastes change as you get older, and when you go vegan.

And then finally, I packed a few Raw Cashews. I am a firm believer in the health benefits of eating a few nuts every day. There's tons of information about it on the internet. I just have to be careful though and really control my portion though because I would have no problem sitting down and eating about ten times this amount. I didn't put very many in my lunch as you can see, because I don't want to have too much fat, even if it's the good kind. I buy my Raw Cashews at a local Indian Grocer now because they have them for like half the price of the health food store. What a bargain!

So, now I guess it's time for my weekly update on my weight loss progress. To recap, I started trying to eat healthier and exercise a little bit every day 3 weeks ago. My starting weight then was 225 lbs. which is the most I have ever weighed. UGH! I lost 7 pounds the first week and then 5 more pounds the second week which brought my weight down to 213 lbs. a week ago. Well, I expected the loss to slow down after those first couple of weeks of initial weight loss, and it did. When I weighed this weekend I weighed 211 lbs. That means that I lost 2 more pounds last week, bringing my total weight loss to 14 pounds in 3 weeks. My goal is to get down to 185 lbs. or less, so that means that I have, at least, 26 more pounds to lose.

This is when I think the going gets tough because it's really not that inspirational to only lose a pound or two in a week, although it really should be because I could be GAINING. I'm sticking with it though because I am determined to get my weight down before Summer gets here. It's been warming up nicely here in Tennessee this past week, so this will definitely be a good week for getting all of those daily walks in. I'll probably even add a little time to my walks this week in an effort to shake things up and keep that scale moving in the downward direction.

So that's it for Monday's lunch & my weight loss update.

Thanks for coming by today and I'll see everybody on Tuesday.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Vegan Chili Beans & Joanna's Cornbread

Today's lunch is something that you've seen me bring before, but this time there IS something just a little bit different. In fact, today's lunch was pretty much designed around one of the side items, and that's the cornbread muffin. Joanna's Cornbread Muffin, to be exact. I signed up to be one of Joanna's recipe testers for her new cookbook, and while I haven't tested as many recipes as I would have liked to by this point, the few things that I have made have been absolutely delicious. In case you don't know, Joanna is "joannalovesyou" over at the Post Punk Kitchen message boards. And I can already tell you that her cookbook is going to be awesome, so you might as well just plan on ordering it right now when it comes out around June or so. Her recipes are really, really good. And I mean GOOD.

You might remember me lamenting over cornbread in previous blog posts. It seemed like I never could get my vegan cornbread moist enough, and the last thing I tried, which worked pretty well, was adding some ground flax seed to the mix. Well, while browsing through Joanna's tester recipes this week, I stumbled upon her recipe for cornbread muffins. They were really more like Mexican Cornbread since they contained Bell Peppers, Hot Peppers and Fresh Corn. The thing I found most interesting about them, was the fact that there was NO FAT in the recipe. They didn't call for adding any oil or margarine like most cornbread recipes do. She had a pic posted, which looked delicious, and I knew her other recipe that I had tried was delicious, so I made the things. All I can say is WOW! These are the most delicious cornbread muffins I have had since I became vegan. They are really moist and extremely tasty. These are DEFINITELY what I am making whenever I make cornbread in the future. The fact that they didn't have any added fat also meant that they're good for my diet.

To go with the cornbread (this seems so funny, basing a whole meal around a side item) I made some Vegan Chili Beans. They're just the usual Chili Beans that I make which consist of a can of Kidney Beans, a can of Chili Beans and a package of Chili Seasoning, all just Kroger brand. I also like to add in some TVP to help make it "meatier". Oh, and I almost forgot, I also grilled up some onion in a skillet and threw in there. It's really starting to warm up around here, so there might not be too many more opportunities to enjoy some hot chili beans on a cold day.

I also sliced up the last Yve's Zesty Italian Brat that I had left and stirred it up in some Sauerkraut. I don't really care too much for Sauerkraut by itself, but if you put enough faux meat in it, then I like it. As I said in the previous post, these Brats are really good and I definitely plan on consuming quite a few of them this Summer via the grill.

And finally, for dessert, I just threw in a Cashew Cookie Larabar. I've slacked off on bringing the Larabars lately, but believe me, I am still a full-fledged addict. I normally eat one every morning for breakfast, and I like them for snacks too. They're so tasty and they're just so dang convenient.

So that does it for Friday's lunch. I got my walk in today, so, for the first time since starting this weight loss thing, I finally got my whole 5 days of exercise in this week. Hopefully the scale will reward me when I report in on Monday.

Thanks for checking in today. See everybody on Monday!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Spaghetti with Vegan Meat Sauce

In case you haven't noticed from some of my older blog posts, I absolutely love Spaghetti. I like it with Marinara Sauce, I like it with Vegan Meatballs and I like it the way that I brought it today, with a Vegan Meat Sauce. Of course, there's not really any meat in it, but it sure does look and taste like it. Normally, there really wouldn't be that much to say about another spaghetti lunch, but since I'm trying to lose some weight, I did do something a little bit different. Plus, the story of how this whole lunch came about is a story in itself. So let me tell you about it.

This lunch actually started when I had Sloppy Joes a couple of nights ago for dinner. To make the Sloppy Joes, we used the Fantastic Foods Vegetarian Sloppy Joe Mix. It's basically just TVP and all of the necessary flavorings & spices. All you have to do is boil some water, dump the package of stuff in it and POOF! You've got Sloppy Joes (they also make my favorite Taco Filling mix). Anyway, you can just prepare the stuff as is, by mixing it with water, or there is a recipe there on the back of the box for Mama's Sloppy Joes (or something like that) that involves making the mix and then jazzing it up with a few more ingredients. I thought I might like it better if it were jazzed up a little bit, so that's what we did. We added some chopped onion, some diced tomato, some Basil and some Chili Powder, along with a few other things. Anyway, it ended up not tasting too much like Sloppy Joes to me. I ate it anyway, as a Sloppy Joe, that night. But there was just something about the taste that I couldn't put my finger on. As I put all of the leftovers into some plastic containers, wondering what in the world I was gonna' do with all this stuff, it finally hit me. It tasted more like Spaghetti Sauce. So I figured it would probably be really good if I just took some jarred Spaghetti Sauce and poured all of this into it, turning it into a "meaty" Spaghetti Sauce. So that's what I did, and that's what is in the lunchbox today. It turned out AWESOME! In fact, I think I'll probably even start putting this Sloppy Joe mix into my Spaghetti Sauce from now on. It really sweetens it up and gives it a lot of extra flavor, in addition to making it "meaty". It was a cool accidental discovery.

To go along with my Spaghetti I just brought a simple salad made with some Baby Spinach and some small Tomatoes. For dressing, in the topmost little blue container, I just mixed together some Olive Oil, some Balsamic Vinegar and a few drops of Sesame Oil to smoke it up just a little bit.

The lunchbox container helped me control my portion size on my Spaghetti because, believe me, I could eat a bucket full of this. For my Garlic Toast, however, I had to be careful and not go overboard with the fat & calories like I normally do when I fix bread. I think that most times in the past, when I've brought spaghetti for lunch, I've brought 3 or 4 pieces of Garlic Toast, each of which is a half of a slice of bread. I used to use just plain old bread, which was 80 calories or so a slice, so I had something like 120 calories just in the bread. This time though, I was a little more careful and used a Light Hot Dog Bun instead of multiple slices of regular bread. The bun is only 60 calories, plus I cut off the rounded ends (which I ate with my dinner last night), so that probably removed another 25% of the calories. So instead of having 120+ calories invested in my bread, I think I've got something more like 45 calories. Of course, there's Earth Balance on there too, but I also went a little bit easier with that than I used to. So overall, I think I cut out quite a few calories from the bread side of the lunchbox.

And then finally, in that little blue container at the bottom of the lunchbox, I've got something that I've been meaning to try for quite some time. Previously, whenever I have needed Vegan Parmesan Cheese, I have used some storebought stuff that I got at the health food store. It's okay. It's made from soy though and obviously highly processed, and tastes just a little bit too chemically to me. It's okay, but it's not great. I have read, multiple times, on various vegan message boards about making your own Vegan Parmesan sprinkles. I just never have done it. I think there's even a recipe for it in one or more of the cookbooks that I've got. Well, I was about to sit down to a plate of this spaghetti last night when I just thought, "Dang it. Let me make some of that right quick to throw on here." So I did.

I didn't follow any recipe. I just used my little Cuisinart, the one that's really tiny, like for grinding coffee beans or something, and I threw in a few Walnuts, sprinkled in some Nutritional Yeast and then just added a little salt. I gave the whole thing a whirl and the next thing you know, I've got stuff that looks like Parmesan Cheese. It smells cheesy to and tastes really good. I put some on my spaghetti and I really liked it. I would much rather use this than some highly processed product full of chemicals, so I guess I'll be making this from now on whenever I've got an item that I would like to sprinkle something cheesy on.

So there's lunch for Thursday. Not super-duper diet food by any means, but certainly not as bad as it could be. By paying attention to the bread thing, and cutting calories there, and letting the lunchbox control my pasta portion, I think I did okay. Coupled with a good walk today, everything should be on track for losing a few more pounds this week. It's finally starting to warm up here now and it looks like it's gonna' be a beautiful day for a walk, so I am DEFINITELY getting that in today.

So thanks for stopping by and I'll see everybody on Friday!