Monday, April 30, 2007

Creamy Spinach Pesto Pasta

Today's lunchbox contains an idea that I mentioned in last Friday's blog post where I had the veggie pizza with SusanV's Tofu Spinach Ricotta on it. That stuff is so good that I can just eat it by the spoonful by itself. It's really good in the original lasagna recipe that it comes from, so I wondered what it would be like if you just stirred it up with some pasta and used it as a sauce. Well, I had so much left over on Friday that for today, I mixed some up in some spaghetti noodles and WOW! This stuff is really good. And there's no shortage of chlorophyll here either, so this all fits wonderfully into my whole "eat more greens" thing.

I couldn't think of a better name for it than Creamy Spinach Pesto Pasta. It smells a lot like pesto, because there is a little dried basil in the recipe, but it's mostly spinach. Regular pesto is one of my favorite dishes, but I try to limit myself since it contains so much fat. This recipe has considerably less fat than regular pesto, especially if you use reduced fat tofu. The tofu really gives it a lot more body too and makes it more like a creamy sauce. This is really good and I'll definitely make it again. In fact, I may be having it for dinner tonight because I STILL have a lot of the tofu ricotta left over. I guess I need to start thinking really hard and think of some other uses for it. Perhaps it would be a good on a sandwich. Maybe something like an avocado sandwich with sprouts and then tofu ricotta spread on it. Now THAT sounds good. Hmmmmm...

Anyway, to go along with the pasta I just brought a simple salad of some baby spinach leaves. To top it, I brought some more of that delicious Brianna's Rich Santa Fe Blend salad dressing. It really is amazing that this stuff is fat-free because it certainly doesn't look like it, or taste like it. This is probably my favorite salad dressing right now. At least until I burn myself out on it.

I also threw in a few raw cashews and a few red grapes for dessert. I started to include another Larabar but decided against the additional 200 calories since I was eating pasta today. Gotta' keep watching those calories.

And speaking of watching calories, I unfortunately did not lose any additional weight this week. DANG IT! I still weigh 201 lbs. When I have lost weight before using diets such as Weight Watchers, I have usually hit a plateau around the 200 lb. mark, so that may be what is going on. Or maybe it's just because I overindulged too many times last week. I DID go out and eat Mexican one night, although I ate as healthy as I could, and I DID have Papa John's one day this weekend. Needless to say, I will be evaluating all of my non-lunch meals much more closely this week. I'll probably try to replace a lot of them with green smoothies. I'm also going to kick up the exercise a little this week. Thanks to my new pedometer (which I love) I have discovered that my normal walking routine that I have been following has NOT been getting in the 10000 steps a day that is recommended. So I'm going to have to add some more walking every day. Surely, between being stricter with the calories this week, and upping the exercise, I can break through that 200 lb. mark by next Monday.

It really could be a plateau, and I might be stuck here for a little while, but I'm gonna' try to jump start it again this week and get this scale moving again in the downward direction.

So there's lunch for Monday. Using the tofu ricotta on pasta turned out just as delicious as I imagined it would be. I'm sure there are a million other things I could do with this stuff too if I just put my mind to it. Mmmmm... sitting here writing this I just had an image of delicious Roma tomatoes stuffed with this stuff. Holy cow that sounds good. I think I may have just planned tomorrow's lunch.

So thanks for reading my blog today. See everybody on Tuesday!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

VLC Extra - Blendtec Home Total Blender

Well, after what I guess has been years of thinking about investing in something like this, I finally went and did it. I actually started lusting over the Vita-Mix several years ago before I even went vegan. It was usually during a period when I would start getting stirred up about my health and started investigating ways that I might improve it. Invariably, I would end up "discovering" all over again that I needed to eat more vegetables, and the Vita-Mix just seemed like the best way to do that.

Well, I finally started getting serious about this purchase a couple of months ago and I came really close to purchasing the Vita-Mix when I saw the Blendtec Home Total Blender mentioned on a discussion board. People were comparing the two machines, and they sounded really similar. But there were a few things about the Blendtec that I really liked better. First of all, it has a larger motor. The Vita-Mix is 2HP and the Blendtec is 3HP. I also liked the controls better. The Vita-Mix just has the switches and the knob, and you have to stand there and turn it off and on and control it throughout the entire process. The Blendtec just has some buttons that control several different preprogrammed sequences so you can just load the thing up and then press one button. It will speed up, slow down, whatever it needs to do, and then at the end of the blending or grinding it will turn itself off. You can still control it manually if you want to, using the buttons, and you can always use the pulse button if you think that something might need a little more processing. And the third thing that really sold me on the Blendtec is the fact that you can use the same container for blending wet things and grinding dry things like wheat. With the Vita-Mix you have to switch back and forth between two different container/blades, which cost extra. I also just liked the look of the Blendtec better. It's more high-tech looking with that cool blue LCD display on the front.

So how does it work? In a word; AWESOME! It does everything that they claim it does. It makes awesome smoothies, but I figured it would since this is the same blender that lots of national smoothie chains & coffee shops use. I've also made hummus in it and it turned out wonderful as well. One cool thing about making hummus in it is that you don't need to use Tahini, you can start with actual sesame seeds and let the mixer pulverize them into Tahini. I thought that was cool, and practical considering that I was out of Tahini and I DID have some sesame seeds in the cabinet.

I also made some soy ice cream in it. I actually figured that they were exaggerating when they used the word ice cream, because I figured it would be more like frozen treat or sorbet kind of thing rather than actual ice cream. But no, it turned out the exact texture of ice cream, and if I hadn't actually seen it be made in the blender, I would have thought it had been made the regular slow way with an ice cream maker. But all I had to do was pour in some soy milk, sugar, vanilla, peanut butter and then add three cups of ice, put the lid on and press the ice cream button. In about 35 seconds I actually had homemade peanut butter ice cream, and it had a very creamy consistency, not icy or chunky at all. Just perfectly creamy. I was impressed.

Of course, sitting around eating soy ice cream is not gonna' help me lose weight, or really do much for my health, so that brings me to the main thing that I have been making in this monster...

Green smoothies are something that I never thought I would be drinking in a million years, but you know what, they are really good. Like a lot of people, I would imagine, I got on the green smoothie kick after reading Green for Life by Victoria Boutenko. If you haven't read this book, I highly recommend checking it out. I won't try to condense it down to a few sentences because there is just so much information in it. If you think you might be interested in significantly increasing the amount of raw greens in your diet then just head over to and read the information on the book, and check out the reviews. This book is full of compelling information showing how increasing the amount of greens in your diet can cause miraculous improvements in your health. Of course there's data in the book to back up the claims, but just reading about it you can kinda' sense that it's true, even without proof. I mean, everybody knows that greens are good for you instinctively, the only problem is how do you consume enough of them, and how do you make sure that you're getting all of the nutrition out of them, and that's where the Blendtec comes in handy.

So far, I've only been having green smoothies for breakfast. I'm not sure that I'll see much additional weight loss from that though because I was already usually just eating a grapefruit for breakfast. What I really need to do is start replacing some of my dinners with green smoothies as much as possible, and certainly all of my snacks. I am actually amazed at how much I enjoy them. They taste so fresh and you just know that you're doing something really good for your body when you drink them. And it amazes me every time when I make one and just throw in strawberries with the caps still on them, and just quarter an apple and throw it in, with the core & seeds and all and the mixer just completely pulverizes all of that to a smooth consistency (I need to do some more reading about this though because there is information out there saying not to consume apple seeds). I really shouldn't be surprised though, this baby can pretty much grind up ANYTHING. If you don't believe me, just head over to their website at and watch them grind up everything from magnets to golf clubs.

Hopefully these green smoothies will help me with my weight loss goals as they improve my health from within. But I really do need to start working them into my eating habits more. Green smoothies are also an excellent way to experiment with the whole raw lifestyle that I am so fascinated with. And according to the book, experience has shown that people who regularly consume green smoothies tend to eat more and more raw food naturally. So that will be interesting to see if it holds true for me.

So there you have it, my new secret weapon to help me eat a lot more raw vegetables, and also to, hopefully, help me lose some more weight. I wanted to share it on here because I'm really excited about it. I've always wanted a real heavy duty blender like this so that I could make really good smoothies, make ice cream quickly, grind my own flour, make my own nut butters and all that other stuff. Of course, I'm really on the green smoothie kick right now, but I hope to get around to using my Blendtec for all of those other things eventually.

I sat on the fence about this thing for a long time because they are so expensive. I read review after review on the internet, but still wondered if I would actually think that the thing was as awesome as everyone else seemed to. I was just worried about spending that much money on something and then having buyer's remorse. So do I think it's worth it? You bet! I mean, we'll see how long I continue to drink green smoothies but hey, I really like the taste of them, they are incredibly good for my health, and they are absolutely no trouble at all to make with this thing. So why stop? Hopefully this is the beginning of a lifelong HEALTHY habit.

I'll let you know what I think about the Blendtec as I use it for other uses in the future. But as far as making smoothies, and especially green smoothies, go, I can already highly recommend this thing because it does just an awesome job.

See you tomorrow!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Yummy Vegan Pizza

I had it all decided in my mind, before I left work yesterday, that I was going to bring pizza for lunch today. So I stopped by the health food store to pick up some more FYH Vegan Gourmet Mozzarella and DANG IT! They were out of stock. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw the empty shelf there, but I did confirm that they haven't stopped carrying it or anything, they were just temporarily out. So apparently, there is someone else in this town who likes that product as much as I do. HA! Since that was out of the question, I decided to do something else that I have been meaning to try for quite some time now.

I just made some homemade crusts using my favorite pizza crust recipe. Here lately, I've really gotten into making several individual size crusts rather than just one or two big ones because normally, when I cook pizza, whatever is there on the pan is how much I will eat. So just making smaller pizzas really helps me keep from overindulging on pizza, as I so frequently do. I actually made the crusts a little bit too big this time, or I guess I should say that they rose up a little bit more than they normally do. I couldn't fit the whole pizza in the lunchbox like I usually do, so I only brought half of a pizza for lunch today.

Since I didn't have any vegan mozzarella, I whipped up a batch of the Spinach Tofu Ricotta that is used in my favorite lasagna recipe from over at SusanV's Fatfree Vegan Kitchen. I have been wondering how this would be on a pizza, and this was my chance to find out. If you haven't made this stuff before, it's really delicious. I love it in the lasagna recipe. I even like to just lick it off the spoon. And I bet that it would be delicious just tossed in as a sauce on some pasta. That's something that I might try next since I have quite a bit of this stuff leftover.

Anyway, I just spread the Spinach Tofu Ricotta all over the pizza crust. I put it on first because it's pretty thick. If I had put the sauce on first, it would have made a real mess trying to spread this mixture over it. So the "cheese" went on first, then some storebought pizza sauce, and then I just covered it with a bunch of mushrooms & veggies. I was also out of vegan pepperoni but oh well, I didn't miss it. Just plain ol' veggie pizza is great.

This turned out really well. The Spinach Tofu Ricotta made a nice substitute for cheese, and it was a lot cheaper than using a storebought vegan cheese product. I will definitely make pizza like this again in the future.

To go along with my veggie pizza, I brought a baby spinach salad. For the dressing, I started to just bring some olive oil and maybe a lemon wedge, like I did the last couple of times that I brought a salad. But then I remembered that I had an unopened bottle of Brianna's Rich Santa Fe Blend salad dressing that I stumbled upon at the supermarket a couple of weeks ago. When I glanced at the bottle at the store and read the ingredients, I thought everything on there looked vegan. When I got home though and read it again, I noticed that it did list lactic acid as an ingredient. I won't go into the whole lactic acid discussion, but needless to say, I started wondering if it was of animal origin or if it was derived from microbial fermentation. So, I just put the bottle in the fridge and fired off a quick e-mail to the company and asked them about the lactic acid. They responded very quickly and informed me that the lactic acid in that dressing is NOT animal-derived and is indeed vegan. Woo-hoo! Not only is this dressing vegan, it's also delicious and even FAT-FREE!

And for dessert, I just took the easy way out and threw in a Banana Cookie Larabar. These are still one of my favorite vegan treats, but I guess I just don't show them that much on here any more because I usually try to limit myself to one a day and I normally end up consuming them for breakfast or a snack.

So that does it for Friday's lunchbox. I'm always up for some delicious vegan pizza, and today's certainly hit the spot. I'm planning on maybe doing an extra post this Sunday about my new "secret weapon" for my weight loss & health improvement endeavor. It's something that I am really excited about and have really been enjoying. I am excited to share some information about it with everybody. I'm also keen to see what kind of improvements I will see from it in my health.

So thanks for reading the blog today. See you on Monday (well, probably Sunday).

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Vegan Dining @ Cootie Brown's (again)

Okay, I admit it. Cootie Brown's IS my favorite place, here where I live, to find good food that can easily be made vegan. If you've been reading my blog for very long, then you've seen me go there several times. This time, however, I swear it wasn't my fault! Our entire group at work decided to take our Secretary out to eat (in honor of Administrative Professionals Day) and today was the day that was decided on. We let her pick the place, and lucky for me, she chose Cootie Brown's. So see, everybody can find something that they really like at Cootie's; omnivore, vegetarian and vegan alike. In fact, I think it was the very first time that my Group Leader had ever been there and I heard him make the comment as we were all leaving that he really liked it. So hopefully, more work-related lunches will be taking place there in the future. If I have to go out and eat in a restaurant, it really is the best vegan option around here that I have found.

I think I ordered Pizza the last couple of times that I featured Cootie Brown's on my blog. So this time I went back to the veggie burgers. They have three different types of veggie burgers, and they are all homemade. There's a Black Bean Burger, a Sundried Tomato Burger and a Spinach Burger. They all have a similar base, but just with different ingredients blended in. I'm not sure what all they put in there, but it seems like it's one of those veggie burgers based on Lentils, Bulgur Wheat, maybe some Potato, maybe Chickpeas? Who knows. Whatever they put in them, they are deeeeeeelicious. In order to make sure that my burger was vegan I had to make sure they left off any cheese and mayo. Plus, I did the whole "no butter on the bun" thing as well. I'm not sure if they put butter on their buns before they grill them or not, but better safe than sorry. My bun came out just toasted, which is exactly what I wanted. This Spinach Burger is really good too because it comes with those yummy Grilled Onions on top. EXCELLENT!

Instead of ordering French Fries, or some other side like that, I opted for the dish of Roasted Vegetables. It's just a dish of Spinach, Artichokes, Garlic, Roasted Red Peppers, there may have been Onion in there too. Anyway, it's all roasted in this ceramic dish in Olive Oil and herbs. It normally comes with Blue Cheese all over the top of it, but I, of course, asked them to leave that part off. End result: TOTAL VEGAN YUMMINESS!

I have been meaning to try those vegetables for quite some time, but I was a little worried about how much Olive Oil would be in there. I AM trying to lose weight. Actually, they had just the right amount on them. They weren't swimming in oil, but there was enough in there to flavor the veggies and keep them from drying out when they were under the broiler. If there had been too much oil on them, then my stomach would be complaining right about now. But it's not. The burger and the veggies were delicious and made for a nice combination. I really like it when I eat a meal that really fills me up, but doesn't make me feel all sick after I eat it. Those are good meals. And this was one of them. It was a good amount of food that really filled me up, but it was healthy enough so that I still feel good after eating it.

So that was my lunch for Thursday. I've been trying to be really good this week so I can get back in the groove of losing weight, but I went out and ate Mexican with my parents last night, and then we had this lunch today. Oh well. I chose fairly healthy options both times, so maybe these two meals won't have too big of an impact on my week and I'll still come out a pound or two lighter on Monday.

I purchased a new pedometer today and I love it! They've got a program going on here at work where you can register and log your total steps online everyday and win prizes and all that. I was already walking anyway, so I figured I might as well join the program. Every little bit of motivation helps. I hadn't replaced my last pedometer since it quit working, so I did a little research online and ended up purchasing the Omron Premium Pedometer. It's really nice and I think it'll really help to keep me motivated with my walking.

So thanks for coming by today.

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

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Veggie Plate

Well, today's lunchbox ended up being just a big ol' pile of veggies. Of course, there's nothing wrong with that. Cooking more complicated vegan food is fun, when you have the time, but there's also something to be said for eating simply. I was running short on time last night so I decided on bringing a bunch of veggies for lunch since I didn't have a lot of time to cook. The Kale & Onions and the Mashed Potatoes with Vegan Brown Gravy were even leftovers from my previous night's cooking. So there was no extra work involved there at all. So there's really not a whole lot to say about today's lunch, except that it was yummy.

All I had to do was get the leftover veggies out of the fridge and pack them into the lunchbox containers. The Yellow Sweet Corn was frozen, so I just poured some it out of the bag, still frozen, into the red container. It thaws out on its own before lunchtime, and then a quick pop in the microwave heats it up nicely. The only thing that I did have to cook for today's lunch was the Vegan Cornbread Muffin. I've been trying to leave bread out of my lunchbox as much as possible to cut down on the amount of calories that I am consuming since I want to lose 16 more pounds. But since I was just eating veggies today, I thought I could probably afford to splurge a little bit and bring some cornbread.

I really wanted to bring some of Joanna's Corn Muffins (I had them on here once before) because those were really tasty, and probably the best vegan cornbread that I have tried so far. I didn't have any bell peppers at home though, so I fell back to my previous favorite cornbread recipe, which I made a little bit healthier by adding some ground flax seed. The only thing that was missing was something to put on my cornbread. I really wish that I had packed one of the little lunchbox dressing containers with some Smart-Squeeze in it. I love that stuff. It's vegan, it tastes buttery and it's fat-free. Oh well. Maybe next time.

As I look at this lunch, I can't help but imagine someone from here, where I live, looking at it and saying, "Oh. THAT's what a vegan eats. Well, heck, I could probably do that because I eat like that all the time." Lots of people around here do eat something similar to this a lot of the time, and you can easily order just plates of veggies in most restaurants, but it's NOT vegan. They seem to think that it doesn't taste good unless the corn is swimming in butter, the mashed potatoes are full of milk, and the greens have cooked in a pot with a dead animal's leg. No thank you. I like my vegan food just the way that it is. Honestly, I couldn't imagine ruining this delicious Kale & Onions by simmering it with body parts. Anyway, I'll shut up. I'm about to go on a rant...

It is funny though, how my tastes have changed since I became vegan. I NEVER would have eaten a bunch of veggies like this before. I couldn't stand most of them, and now I love them. I've gone through 2 lbs. of Kale in just the last few days. I went back to get some more at the store, but they don't have it now. In it's place were Collard Greens. They were in the same packaging, already cut & cleaned. So I got a big bag of them. I've only eaten them from a can before and I really didn't care for them. But I'm willing to bet that when I cook them up fresh, I will love them. I guess we'll see.

So that's it for lunch today. I'll try to bring something a little more interesting tomorrow. Sometimes it's just nice though to eat simple things.

No wait, I almost forgot. I have to go out and eat tomorrow. Everyone at work is taking our group's secretary out to eat. Lucky for me, we're going to Cootie Brown's, and you all know how much I like that place. WOO-HOO! So, the blog post will probably be a little bit delayed tomorrow. I'm not sure what I'm gonna' eat there this time. I've been craving that Spinach Veggie Burger that they have, but that Pizza that I've eaten there the last several times has been amazingly good. Decisions... decisions...

Anyway, thanks for checking out my blog and I'll see everybody tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Vegan Comfort Food

I was reading back through my blog last night, FINALLY responding to some of the comments from last week, when I became fixated on the post about Rosetta's Kitchen over in Asheville, NC. I got to thinking back, about how delicious that meal was, and it really got me hankerin' for another big ol' plate of vegan comfort food. So into the kitchen I went to try and recreate something similar for my lunchbox today. I didn't have the time to fool with trying out a brand new recipe like the Peanut Butter Baked Tofu, plus I'm not sure that it was really something that I liked THAT much, it was a little too rich for me, so I ended up fixing something that's really quick and really easy... and REALLY delicious.

Vegan Chicken Fried Steak is something that I came up with on here a while back. Of course there's not any real chicken or steak in it, and it's not even fried, but that's the best name I could think of for this. All I did was warm up a Boca Chik'n Patty and then smother it in some delicious Vegan Brown Gravy made using my favorite recipe. You might remember that I like to doctor the recipe up a little bit by adding an extra Tbsp. or so of Soy Sauce, along with 1/8 tsp. or so of garlic powder, a pinch of thyme, a pinch of sage and some fresh ground black pepper. Gosh this gravy is good, even better than what I've eaten in restaurants. And if you haven't tried it all over a Boca Chik'n Patty yet, you really should go do that right now. It's CRAZY good. The only problem is, after I eat one, I want two or three more. Luckily, the lunchbox won't let that happen today.

I also brought along some homemade Mashed Potatoes, covered with some more Vegan Brown Gravy. And you know, I don't have to feel bad about putting this gravy all over everything because the stuff is FAT-FREE. I did put the potatoes in a smaller container instead of a larger one to help me control the calories a little bit. Plus, I omitted bringing any type of bread like a roll or cornbread muffin, like I used to do so frequently.

I also whipped up a big bunch of Kale & Onions by just frying up some onions & garlic in a skillet and then wilting a bunch of Kale in it. You know, I had never eaten Kale before in my life until that meal last week at Rosetta's Kitchen. I've seen various posts about it on other message boards where people have someone in their family who hates it and such, so I was kind of wary of it. But HOLY COW I love this stuff. It's my favorite green now and I plan on eating lots and lots of it in the future. There's a lot of Kale in my house right now because of that "secret weapon" for my health & weight loss that I mentioned yesterday (if THAT gives you any hint as to what it is). Like I said, I'll be doing a post about that in a few days.

And for dessert, I just whipped up a quick Trail Mix by mixing together some Raw Almonds, Raw Cashews, Raw Sunflower Seeds & Raisins. YUM!

So there you have it, a nice little lunchbox full of delicious vegan comfort food. It was really easy to cook up. The only thing that even really took any time was boiling the potatoes so that I could smash them up.

That Vegan Brown Gravy really is one of the greatest things ever. You could feed that to any omnivore and I think they would love it. I like to put it on EVERYTHING.

So thanks for checking out the blog today. See everybody tomorrow!

Monday, April 23, 2007

General Tao's Seitan

It feels kinda' strange being back at work with my lunchbox after a week of searching for vegan food on the road. But here I am. For my lunch today, I tried a new twist on one of my all-time favorite vegan recipes. I only had to make it once, to know that the recipe for General Tao's Tofu over at vegweb was a winner. I've made it several times, and a variety of different ways. I've breaded the tofu with cornstarch and fried it, like the recipe says. I've made it with just plain old steamed tofu as well. Heck, I've even left the tofu out completely and just made it with vegetables. The sauce is my favorite part anyway. This time though, I thought I would try making it using a different meat substitute.

I whipped up some Seitan last night using the recipe from La Dolce Vegan by Sarah Kramer. I was hooked on the baked seitan thing there for a while, but anymore, this method seems to be my favorite because it's just so dang easy. It's just equal parts of Vital Wheat Gluten and water mixed together. I usually add 1/4 cup of Chickpea Flour also though, just to help the texture be a little less rubbery. Then you just simmer that glob of gluten in a broth that you flavor up depending on whether you are trying to imitate beef, chicken, pork or fish. And you only need to simmer it for an hour. Then you can use the broth to simmer another batch of gluten, or use it as the liquid part to make some tasty rice or stuffing, or something like that.

Anyway, last night I made the Chicken style seitan and then cubed it up and fried it in a skillet. Then I just followed the vegweb recipe down to the letter. I did add a bag of frozen vegetables near the end. There's broccoli, a few green beans and carrots in there. The color of the veggies got kinda' icky with me cooking them like that. Perhaps I should have just steamed them separately in the the microwave in their own container to help them keep their color. Oh well. They may not be that pretty to look at, but they sure do taste good.

To go along with the main dish, I brought some Brown Rice that I just cooked up using some rice from the bulk bins at the health food store. And then, in the small containers I've got a few Raw Almonds and some Wasabi Peas. The General Tao's Seitan & Rice are really for my lunch, and I packed the Almonds & Peas with the intention of using them to snack on throughout the day. I only recently discovered the hot Wasabi Peas at the Asian Market and I am on my 3rd or 4th large container of them now. They are so HOT. I love snacking on them because I have to eat them pretty slowly since they're so spicy. They're even semi-healthy, for a snack food.

And speaking of healthy, just like I predicted, I am afraid that I am going to have to report that I did not lose any additional weight last week. I'm not upset about it though because the good news is, I DIDN'T GAIN ANY WEIGHT EITHER! I couldn't believe it when I weighed myself this weekend, because I really blew my diet all to pieces last week while I was in Savannah. Looking back, I guess most of my food was semi-healthy, but just the amount of food that I ate was so much more than I normally eat here at home. I thought for sure that I would be back up to 205 lbs. or more, but nope, I'm still 201 lbs. I knew that I probably wouldn't lose any weight with all of the eating out that I did, but not gaining any is actually a pleasant surprise. I'm happy with that.

It's time to get back in the groove of eating better now though, and I've got a new secret weapon to help me eat healthier. I'll reveal it in an upcoming post. Hopefully, getting back to fixing my own food, controlling my portion sizes, getting my daily walks in again, and using my secret weapon will allow me to get this weight loss show back on the road and get rid of these last 16 pounds that I want to lose.

So thanks for checking in on my first day getting back in the groove of things.

See you on Tuesday!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Asheville - Rosetta's Kitchen

Well, as planned, I stopped in Asheville, NC on my way back home to Tennessee and enjoyed a nice lunch at Rosetta's Kitchen. I have been meaning to eat here for quite a while but just never got around to it. There are a couple of different ways to get into the restaurant. I ended up parking around back and using the back entrance which takes you up a long flight of colorful steps to reach the main restaurant part. It's a funky place, with a definite atmosphere that you can almost cut with a knife. The menu seemed HUGE! And there were lots of special vegan things, different types of Quinoa salads, cakes and stuff like that, that aren't on the menu every day, that were in display in a case right there where you order.

Here, you just order and go ahead and pay right there at the counter and then go take your seat at a table and wait for your food. I thought I remembered someone telling me that they call your name to come and get your food, and they did ask for my name when I ordered, so I was expecting that. But they brought my food to me. Maybe they just call your name when they get really, really busy, which they did before I got finished eating and got out of there.

I ordered their Hummus as an appetizer since it had been more than 24 hours since I last had Hummus. Hahaha. I swear, I have never eaten as much Hummus as I have this week and I am HOOKED. I can't wait to get back home and make some MORE! The Hummus at Rosetta's Kitchen was very good. As you can see, it came with some Carrot sticks and Tortilla Chips, which were also exceptionally good by the way. I really enjoyed all of the Hummus that I ate this week, and this batch was no exception. It was nice and thick and seasoned just perfectly. It tasted awesome on both the chips and the veggies.

I ended up ordering one of the plates off the menu that was full of vegan comfort food. There's Peanut Butter Baked Tofu, which I had never had before, some delicious Mashed Potatoes with some Vegan Brown Gravy (very similar to that gravy that I like to make) and some Kale. EXCELLENT! Very good vegan food. The Peanut Butter Baked Tofu was a little strange at first, because I've never had it, but it was extremely rich. It was very difficult to eat it all. In fact, I think I had a little bit left over that I couldn't finish.

I was really wanting to try some of their delicious looking vegan desserts too, but after eating this plate of food there was NO WAY I could eat anything else. They had lots of other vegan goodies on their menu too, like Macaroni & Cheese, Nachos with vegan cheese sauce, and all that stuff. This is a really good place to find some yummy vegan grub. I just wish it was closer to home, but I guess I'm lucky that it's only an hour away.

So there you have it. A fitting end to a week of vegan eating out. It was a little challenging eating out for a whole week while out of town, but not too bad. Luckily I seemed to have magically attracted other vegetarians & vegans to me to offer suggestions. I just showed my lunches on here, but I hit some of the places I liked more than once for dinners. I even ate dinner at the hotel restaurant once. I just had them whip me up some pasta, mushrooms & veggies in some Olive Oil. They were more than happy to accommodate me, and it ended up being really delicious too.

I guess I'll take it easy this weekend and try to recharge before heading back to work next week.

So thanks for reading my blog this week.

The lunchbox and I will be back at work on Monday. See you then!

Have a great weekend!

(whew! it feels good to be back home)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Savannah Mall - Ruby Tuesday

Well, this will be my last evening in Savannah. I'll be heading back home to Tennessee tomorrow. I couldn't decide which sightseeing picture to post today. I had a few of some statues from some of the squares, and a few more of the fountain. I finally decided on another pic of the fountain because it's just about one of the prettiest things that I've ever seen. This pic shows you the long covered walkway leading up to the fountain. It gets even prettier (and spookier) as the sun starts going down and the streetlamps begin to illuminate. At any rate, Savannah is a beautiful city, just like everyone told me that it would be. I'd probably like to come back at some point in the future on my own, when work isn't involved, so I could enjoy myself a little bit more and not have to worry about getting up at a certain time every day and going to class. It's a little expensive down here though, especially if you want to stay right down on the river. I'll probably be back sometime though because there were so many things here that I didn't have time to do this time around.

Unfortunately, today I ended up eating at a chain restaurant that you've seen me eat at before on here. I originally went to the Savannah Mall to try and locate a new restaurant that a bartender told me about. I don't know what it is, but I just seem to attract other vegetarians and vegans to me. I was sitting in a bar the other night, chatting with the bartender when somehow, the issue of food came up and I mentioned that I was vegan and was surprised that there was not an exclusively vegetarian/vegan restaurant in Savannah. Well, come to find out, the bartender was a vegetarian who had actually been vegan for several years before going back to being a vegetarian. He said there was a new restaurant near the mall that had a huge sign outside that said VEGETARIAN or maybe even VEGAN on it. I went to the Savannah Mall and looked all around it, but could not find anything like that. There is more than one mall down here though, so it's possible he was talking about a different mall. I guess I didn't get enough details. DANG IT!

So anyway, I ended up just eating at Ruby Tuesday in the mall because I was short on time and needed to get lunch over with and get back. I really like Ruby Tuesday, it's a good vegan option when you're travelling. I just thought I was going to be able to find something else more local, but I couldn't. So in a way, I guess Ruby Tuesday came to the rescue and helped me eat a filling vegan lunch when I couldn't find any other options.

I started out by making a nice salad from their incredible Salad Bar. I think that they probably have the nicest and most diverse Salad Bar that I am aware of in the chain restaurant industry. It's less than $3 to add it to your meal too, and it's unlimited trips. Plus, they have so many ingredients. I just grabbed a little bit of everything and piled it up into a nice salad. One thing I did do, that I've never done before, was put a few Jalapenos on my salad. I like Jalapenos, but I just had never added them to a salad. It was really good. I'll add those little suckers every time now when I make a salad, if they're available.

I wasn't sure about their salad dressing choices. Even the Light Balsamic Vinegar dressing looked like it might be "creamy", and made me wonder if it might have dairy in it. So I just opted for the oil & vinegar that were sitting there at the end of the salad bar in their separate bottles. You can't go wrong there. My salad was delicious, and I really could have just made a meal out of the Salad Bar. In fact, I probably should have done that since I feel like I have eaten like a PIG this week. But I decided that I might as well enjoy their veggie burger too while I was there. It's the best vegan veggie burger that I know of in the whole chain restaurant industry, and it will DEFINITELY fill you up.

Once again, I asked the server before ordering if that particular restaurant was serving the Veggie Land Burger, because there are supposedly a few Ruby Tuesday locations that serve a different brand of veggie burger that is NOT vegan. She informed me that it was indeed the Veggie Land Burger and said that someone else had asked her about that last week. I guess there must have been another vegan through there, YIPEE! And yes, I got the french fries with it. Not healthy, I know. But hey, I'm pretending like I'm on vacation. I am SO not losing any weight this week. Oh well...

I, of course, also asked her to leave off the mayo and the cheese to make it vegan and then also said that I didn't want them to butter the bun when they grilled it. She looked worried and said she would see what they could do. This was the same look I got at the location at home when I mentioned no butter on the bun. Come to find out, they butter and grill the buns in advance, so there's no way to remove the butter from those buns. So, I just told her that I didn't need my bun grilled, and asked that they just give me a plain bun straight out of the plastic bag, which they did. So I was happy. I have found butter on the buns to be one of those sneaky things that you really have to watch out for when trying to eat out as a vegan. I got burned with it once, a long time ago on a Portobello Mushroom sandwich, and I have been on guard for it ever since. I guess some servers, who really don't understand what veganism is, must think that I am crazy being so worried about butter on the buns, I even had one tell me one time that "they don't use very much and you really can't taste it." But oh well, I eventually get my point across that I don't want any butter on my food, and I guess there's lots of people who think I'm crazy anyway, so there. ;o)

Well, I'm about to head out and cut up a little bit tonight. I guess I can enjoy myself a little bit more since I don't have to get up early for my class tomorrow. I'll just get up whenever I wake up and then start the drive back to Tennessee. It's really not that far. It only took me 5 1/2 hours to drive down here. Hopefully, traffic will be comparable to the drive down and I'll make it back in a similar time frame.

I'll probably stop in Asheville, NC again for lunch on the way home. This time though, I'll try to eat at one of the other vegetarian restaurants there. It really is amazing how many vegetarian dining options there are there, so it's kinda' dumb to just keep eating at the same place over and over. I am planning on FINALLY trying out a place called Rosetta's Kitchen. I don't know what time I'll finally make it home to enter my blog post, but I assume it will be a little later in the day.

So thanks for following the blog this week as I scoped out vegan food in Savannah. There weren't a whole lot of options here, but the ones that I did find were delicious. There were a few more places that were recommended that I didn't even get around to trying, but I guess I'll save those for when I come back and visit the town again on my own and won't be constrained on time because of a work related class.

I'm going out right now to find some ghosts and a great big Margarita!

See everybody tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Savannah - Middle Eastern Cuisine

I had a little time to wander around the streets of Savannah this evening and I made my way down to the famous Savannah Fountain and snapped this picture. This thing was beautiful. I've seen lots of pictures of it in the past, but none of them really do it justice. This is really something that everyone should see, if at all possible. It's so pretty as you walk up this long walkway that leads to it. The walkway is surrounded by lots of those huge Weeping Willows with all of the moss growing in them and drooping down towards the ground. BEAUTIFUL! I always thought that the pictures of the fountain were beautiful, but seeing it in real life was even more impressive than I thought it would be. I'm glad I got to see it.

For lunch today, I headed for a place recommended by my vegetarian server at the restaurant where I ate lunch yesterday. It's a little place called Middle Eastern Cuisine. She recommended it because she said that they had the best Hummus and Falafel that she had ever eaten anywhere, and that those items were, of course, vegan. It didn't take me long to find it. In fact, it's really pretty close to where I am staying and where my class is. As you can see from the pic, it has a very unassuming storefront. There was a cool screen door there on the building too that let the nice breezes blow into the restaurant. I think that this place is quite popular. The owner showed me some Savannah tourist magazine there too which had a write-up about his place in it. It's small, but I think that just makes it all that much more interesting.

Needless to say, I started out by ordering the Hummus. All of the ingredients were listed right there on the menu and this was just plain 'ol Hummus made with Chickpeas, garlic, tahini, lemon juice & salt. If there were any secret ingredients in there then they weren't listed on the menu. This Hummus was EXCELLENT. It seems kinda' strange that I've eaten Hummus every single day this week. I guess I'm starting to get addicted. Oh well, there are worse foods to be addicted to. I used to like "fancier" Hummus better, with Roasted Red Peppers or something else like that. But I swear, I can't imagine Hummus tasting any better than just this plain old regular recipe. This stuff was really good.

And then, for my main course, I ordered the Falafel. I have never made Falafel at home, although I have been meaning to. I had only tried it once before. I bought some pre-made brand from the freezer section of the local health food store. It was horrible. I couldn't even bring myself to swallow it. I actually ended up spitting it out in the trash can. I discovered later via some vegan message boards that frozen Falafel is practically inedible and NOTHING like the real thing. Kinda like canned Asparagus I guess. I knew that I wanted to give it another try because I had heard so many people talk about how much they loved the stuff. Well, what better place to try it than in a restaurant called Middle Eastern Cuisine?

The Falafel is homemade, of course, and the owner said that he baked his. It came wrapped up in a Pita with some lettuce, tomato, red onion and cucumber. You could choose from a few different things to spread on it, but I just ended up choosing to have mine slathered with a little more Hummus. OH MY GOD! This was so good. I am SO making some Falafel when I get back home to Tennessee. Now I see what people are talking about when they say how much they like Falafel. I kinda' feel like I've cheated myself by not discovering Falafel earlier in life, but oh well, better late than never. Hopefully I've still got a lot of years left to enjoy eating this stuff. I will definitely be seeking out places that serve Falafel whenever I eat out now. I don't think there are any where I live, but who knows? Maybe there is. I just never have checked. I will certainly be making some homemade very soon though, so keep your eyes peeled for that to appear in my lunchbox one day.

So there you have it, my second vegan lunch in Savannah, GA. If you're ever through there, then definitely look up Middle Eastern Cuisine, it is SO worth it. It's not far from the whole riverfront scene and it's a definite vegan treat. I'm glad that girl at the Mellow Mushroom told me about this place, because I probably never would have discovered it on my own. Although, NOW I know to look for places like this, that serve Hummus & Falafel, in the future, since those two items are inherently vegan.

So thanks for reading my blog today. I'm about to hit the streets again and do some more sightseeing, maybe with a big Margarita in hand. You know, it's legal to walk around on the streets here while drinking an alcoholic beverage. It just has to be in a plastic cup, and you can only have one drink with you. HA! Other than that, as long as you behave, it's perfectly legal. How cool is THAT?!?!

See everybody tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Savannah - Mellow Mushroom

Well, as you can see, I made it to Savannah, GA. This first picture is obviously not a picture of the place where I ate lunch at, but a picture of the Mercer House. In case you don't know, it's the house where the whole "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" thing went down. I just thought I would throw in a few pics this week from around town in case some of you might be interesting in seeing them. It was kinda' cool to see this house in person after seeing it in the film. It's really beautiful. In fact, the whole town is. It's just FULL of beautiful old mansions like this with streets lined with palm tress and huge Willow trees with moss growing in them and dropping down toward the ground. It's really beautiful at night too, in a spooky way, which is why I guess there are so many ghosts that supposedly reside here. I'll show some more pics from around town as the week goes on, but now on to my vegan lunch that I enjoyed today.

I ended up dining at the Mellow Mushroom. In case you don't know, it's a chain of pizza restaurants that have this whole funky vibe going on. The atmosphere reminds me of something of a cross between my favorite local restaurant, Cootie Brown's, and a coffeehouse. It's decorated really wild and is full of college kids and hippies and that whole scene. It's really neat. There's actually one an hour away from where I live but I just never had gone to it. After this experience though, I will definitely be visiting the one closer to me on a regular basis. Their food is REALLY delicious and there are several menu items that are vegetarian and can easily be made vegan just by omitting an ingredient or two. The staff was extremely helpful and was happy to help me plan out my vegan meal.

I started out with some of their Hummus. I just had some yesterday up there in Asheville, NC and I wanted to try their Hummus here and see how it compared. WOW! This stuff was good. It came with Pita Bread to spread it on and it was topped with something that was absolutely delicious. Maybe some of you guys know what it is. I couldn't figure out if it was just Taco Seasoning, or a mix of Chili Powder & Cumin, or maybe just some type of Smoked Paprika. Whatever it was, I LOVED it. Definitely some of the best Hummus I have ever eaten. I was actually pretty full just from eating the appetizer, but I still had a large pizza on the way! I ordered a large so I would have lots leftover to carry back to my hotel room to munch on later tonight and for breakfast in the morning.

I ended up ordering the Mega-Veggie Pizza, without cheese, of course. They have a regular Veggie Pizza that has a few less toppings on it, but I wanted the one that goes all out. I can't even remember what all was on there; Portobello Mushrooms, onions, green peppers, roasted red peppers, broccoli, artichokes, olives, tofu and I can't even remember what else. It was REALLY good. I really like their crust and their pizza sauce. And needless to say, as you can guess from looking at the picture, I ended up walking back to my room with LOTS of leftovers.

So there you go, my first vegan lunch in Savannah. I really like the Mellow Mushroom and will probably visit there again one night for dinner this week. My server there was actually a vegetarian and was excited that I was looking for some vegan food in Savannah. She wrote down a couple of places that she recommended, so I've got a few leads on other places to try out this week.

Well, it's almost 9PM here. I think I'll head out for a little while and find some spooky bar to have a couple of drinks at. I noticed last night that they've even got a Haunted Pub Tour down here where you go from bar to bar (buying a drink at each one, of course) listening to all of these ghost stories. That really sounds like fun, but I can't have THAT much fun tonight because I've got class again in the morning. I am gonna' go out for a little while though because the town at night is SO pretty.

So thanks for checking in today. See everybody tomorrow!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Laughing Seed Cafe in Asheville, NC

I am actually sitting here in Savannah, GA as I write this blog entry, but the lunch that I'm going to show you is actually from where I stopped in Asheville, NC earlier and ate lunch on my way down to Georgia. Asheville is one of my favorite places in the world, and it's very vegan friendly. There are numerous vegetarian restaurants there and Laughing Seed Cafe is my favorite, so far. One reason is because I like it so much that I never can bring myself to try one of the other restaurants when I am over there. I always want to go to the Laughing Seed. Perhaps someday I'll get around to trying all of the other places, but today, while driving through North Carolina on my way down to Savannah, I was in the mood for some awesome vegan food. I've gotten kinda' worried about what I'm going to be able to find in Savannah, so I wanted to start my trip off with a bang and get some awesome vegan food at a restaurant that I knew wouldn't let me down.

I ended up starting out with an appetizer of some Roasted Red Pepper Hummus that actually had some Artichoke blended up in it as well. Of course, it was delicious. And it just reminded me of the fact that I don't eat anywhere near enough Hummus. That stuff is so easy to make, and I like it so much, that I should be snacking on this stuff all the time. Of course, snacking on it all of the time could add up to some calories if I consumed it all on Pita Bread, but I guess I could always try some healthier options like veggies or something. But anyway, the hummus that they had prepared for their appetizer special today was fabulous. YUM!

The lunch menu is a little bit toned down from the dinner menu. There's more sandwiches and stuff like that one there. I ended up ordering the Tempeh Reuben. I love making Tempeh Reubens at home using the VwaV recipe. In case you haven't tried it, those are AWESOME! This one was good as well. It tasted exactly like I expected it to. The Russian dressing is vegan, and you can order it in either a vegetarian version, which has some cheese on it, or leave that cheese off, like I did, which makes the whole sandwich vegan. Mmmmmm... Tempeh Reubens. DELICIOUS! Their french fries are really delicous too, but not that healthy, I know... They fry them up with onions and jalapeno peppers which makes them exceptionally tasty.

Then, just to make a complete hog out of myself, I asked if they had any vegan desserts today, and they did. It's a Strawberry Napoleon which is basically, just some fresh strawberries between layers of yummy pastry, all topped with some type of delicious vegan coconut "cream" sauce. EXCELLENT!

Needless to say, this road trip to Savannah may not be good for my diet. When I weighed myself this weekend I weighed 201 lbs. That means that I lost another 2 pounds last week which brings my total weight loss to 24 lbs. Not bad. Only 16 more to go to get to my goal of 185 lbs. If I keep eating like this though, on this trip, then I may not be reporting any loss next week. I guess it will depend on whether I can find any vegan food as delicious as this down in Savannah and how much walking I manage to get in.

I'm not gonna' beat myself up over it though. Even though this trip is for work, it's a mini-vacation too and I intend on enjoying myself down here in Savannah. If I end up having a week where I don't lose any weight, then that will be just fine. I've been losing weight for several weeks in a row now and I deserve to enjoy myself a little. I'm not gonna' go wild or anything and gain all 24 pounds back in a week, but if I end up not losing any pounds this week I'm not gonna' feel bad about it. I'll just get back with the program when I get back home. Anyway, who knows? I might walk so much down here that I DO lose a pound or two. Stranger things have happened.

So there's what I ate for lunch for Monday. I know it's not in Savannah, but hey, I couldn't drive past the Laughing Seed Cafe and not stop for lunch. Wish me luck as I start to explore Savannah and see what kind of hidden vegan treasures I can find. I've already gotten some good tips from a few locals, so who knows what I might find. I think I'll go explore right now!

Thanks for reading my blog. Remember that my posting schedule will be messed up this week because I'll be in class most of the day. So the posts will probably be coming a little later than usual.

See everybody tomorrow!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Vegan Turkey Sammich

Well, there's nothing fancy about today's lunch so there probably won't be too much to talk about. Today was one of those days that I really just wanted to bring a plain old sandwich. It's been a while since I've had one in the lunchbox, plus I didn't feel like cooking too much stuff last night, so it all worked out. I was really wanting to bring a Bologna sandwich, but the Turkey was all that I had. Of course, I'm not talking about real Bologna or Turkey. I'm talking about the Light Life Deli Slices. I just love the Bologna style on some bread smeared with a bunch of Vegenaise. YUM! But, like I said, all I had in the fridge was the Roasted Turkey style, so the decision was kinda' made for me. I really like it too. In fact, I think it's kinda' scary how close they actually got to the taste of real turkey. Definitely a good vegan product if you like deli-style stuff on sandwiches. The Light Life Deli Slices are obviously based on Seitan, but they have really got the texture thing down. I'm not sure which ingredient it is that makes it so similar to the texture of deli meat, but whatever it is it works. I notice there is Tapioca in there, and I've seen that in a few seitan recipes as a texture modifier, I assume, so maybe that's it. I've never even bought Tapioca before, but I did notice all kinds of it at the Asian market last week, so maybe I should get some and experiment with it in my homemade seitan and see what kind of effects it has.

I made my Turkey Sammich (I just like to say that sometimes instead of sandwich) using some Light Bread that only has half the calories of regular bread. You would think it would be smaller since it has fewer calories, but it's actually larger than the regular bread I buy. It looks like they either do something with the yeast or add a bunch of baking soda or something to get the bread to really poof up full of air pockets, a lot more than you would normally see in regular bread. So it's a lot more "airy" than my usual bread, which makes it bigger, and also lower in calories since all that air is in there. I just noticed this because with my old bread I can cram two sandwiches into this lunchbox, whereas with the Light Bread, only one would fit. Heck, if I'm using Light Bread trying to cut back on calories then what the heck am I doing trying to pack TWO sandwiches in my lunchbox. IDIOT!

Anyway, it's hard to see the Light Life Roasted Turkey Deli Slices, but they're under the Spinach leaves there. I think I put about 4 slices on this sandwich. I also sliced up a Roma Tomato and put that in there, and I spread a little Vegenaise on the bread. I went a little easier on the Vegenaise than I used to since I want to continue losing some weight this week.

To go along with my sandwich, I brought some more of Joanna's Lemon Butter Rice. This stuff is probably my favorite side dish now because it is so easy to make and has such intense taste. It just tastes healthy too you know, Brown Rice and fresh Lemon. Mmmmmmm...

For dessert I just threw in some Raw Almonds & Raisins. Keeping a few different kinds of dried fruit and raw nuts around usually makes it easy to improvise a dessert for lunch if I don't have anything special to bring. Just grab one or two different types of nuts and one or two different types of dried fruit and throw it all together. If you have enough different types of nuts & fruit, you could come up with different combinations for days before you had to repeat yourself.

Well, I guess that does it for Friday's lunch. Nothing fancy, but kinda' noteworthy since it's something that most people (i.e. omnivores) don't even know is an option if you stop eating animal products. I just wish more people realized that stuff like this is available and how super easy it is to be vegan now with all of these meat replacements just sitting there in the coolers at regular grocery stores. I guess that's why I'm blogging huh?

So thanks for coming by today and I'll see everybody on Monday.

Everything's worked out at home and my housesitter/babysitter (for my Yorkie and my kitty) is coming to stay at the house later this weekend so that I can go on my little trip to Savannah, GA next week. I've got to go for work, but I plan on taking in some of the sites and having a little fun too. It looks like my dining options are going to be severely limited there though. It looks like my only choices for food are going to be an Indian restaurant that's classified as vegan-friendly, a coffee shop that sells some vegan stuff, and a pizza place that has some fancier toppings, but no vegan cheese. I've really got more options than that HERE where I live, but I guess we'll see how it goes. If all else fails I can always call Papa John's. So, don't be too disappointed if the posts aren't all that exciting next week. I'll do all I can to make it as interesting as possible, but if it ends up being a vegan dining wasteland, then I don't guess there will be too much I can do except eat salads. It'll be interesting. Who knows what my blog posting times will be like either. In other words, next week may be kinda' screwy here in my blog, but I'll try to make it entertaining. Hopefully it will be fun.

Actually, now that I think about it, since I didn't go anywhere on vacation last year, this will actually be my first time travelling somewhere new, for more than one night, as a vegan. So I guess we'll see how big of a challenge it will be for me to find some decent vegan grub huh?

Have a great weekend. See you in Savannah!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Soy Boy Ravioli

Today's lunchbox contains a storebought vegan item that I've been wanting to try for quite a while, but I just never was able to locate it at any store. Well, that changed a couple of weeks ago when I was browsing through the freezer section at The Health Barn, one of our local health food stores. I have discovered several different vegan items there that I NEVER thought I could find around here, and that day was no exception. My jaw dropped open when I spotted Soy Boy Ravioli sitting there in the freezer. I was already aware of their products from their advertising in Satya magazine, but I had never seen any of their products in stores. The Health Barn has quickly become my favorite place to shop because they have so many of the hard-to-find vegan items that no one else seems to want to carry. I even made it a point when I was there to compliment the guy who is the grocery buyer and tell him what an awesome job I think he does and how much I appreciate being able to come in there and buy ready-made vegan food items.

The Soy Boy Ravioli is just stuffed with a tofu mixture that's spiced up with some herbs & garlic and such. Pretty standard stuff, like a tofu ricotta. It's good, but I must admit that I like the Spinach Ricotta that SusanV uses in her lasagna recipe better. I guess that's a clue that I need to make my own dang Ravioli sometime and stuff it with exactly what I like huh? I've never made Ravioli before, but it seems like it would be fun. But, the Soy Boy product is good, and VERY convenient since all I had to do was just boil some water and plop the Raviolis in and let them cook for a few minutes. For the sauce, which is NOT radioactive despite how it looks in the picture, I just stirred in some storebought Spaghetti Sauce. I honestly can't even remember what the brand was right now. I'm not really picky about pasta sauce because I pretty much like them all. I usually just grab whatever happens to be on sale and give the ingredients list a quick scan to make sure there's no cheese or anything else in it that would spoil the vegan vibe. I'll definitely buy this Soy Boy Ravioli again, because it IS good. Making my own might be a little better, but it would also be more work. So I guess there's a trade-off there somewhere. In a nutshell, the Soy Boy Ravioli is a tasty and very convenient pre-made vegan product. I'm glad that I found it and I will buy it again.

To go along with the Ravioli, I brought another Spinach Salad. I liked the fresh squeezed Lemon Juice & Olive Oil that I had on my salad yesterday, so I brought that again too. And for dessert, I just threw together my own little homemade trail-mix combination there of raw Sunflower Seeds, raw Almonds, raw Cashews and Raisins. Mmmmm... Very good. I could eat a 5 pound sack of this stuff.

I'm also happy to report that I have been getting in my lunchtime walks like I promised, so hopefully the exercise thing is back on track after that wretched cold snap. I went out and ate dinner last night with my parents to celebrate my mom's birthday and we went to our favorite Mexican place. I normally blow my diet all to pieces when I eat there, which is why it's been a looooong time since I went there. But I was actually pretty good last night. I tried something new and got the manager over there (I kinda' know him) and asked him what they fried the mushrooms in when they grill them. He said they used vegetable oil. I asked him if they put any lard in there or any butter, and he said that they did not, it was just mushrooms & onions grilled with some vegetable oil. So I ended up getting 3 soft tacos with grilled mushrooms & onions on them (instead of meat) and lettuce & tomato. I poured a little salsa on them too and I was good to go. I think they think that I am LOCO, but they made it and it was delicious. Mushrooms have so much more taste than meat. I also only consumed one and a half margaritas (7 oz. size) instead of my normal 20 (just joking, but I normally did drink a lot more margaritas than that and they have SO many calories). So yeah, I blew my diet a little bit last night by going there, but it was a special occasion and I did a lot better than I normally do when I eat there. It was worth it and I'll probably still lose some weight this week. I don't think one little splurge will ruin anything.

So I guess that does it for Thursday's lunchbox. Definitely try the Soy Boy Ravioli if you find it where you live, and you like Ravioli. It's yummy.

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

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

RAW - Carrot & Sunflower Seed Burger

Well, I never thought I would actually get around to doing it, but lo and behold I've finally made one of the fancier (and more time consuming) raw vegan dishes for my lunchbox. It seems like I've been working on this one for a week now. Of course, it's not hard work or anything. It's mostly just a lot of time waiting for things to soak, and to sprout, and to dehydrate, etc. Half of this dish is actually from a recipe and half of it is made up. After I've finally gotten into it and started making some of this stuff, I can see where it would be easy to just make recipes up and wing it based on what ingredients you might happen to have on hand. At any rate, this raw vegan lunch is actually pretty tasty. I don't think I could live on this 100% of the time, but it makes for a nice change of pace, and you can definitely tell that it's healthy for you when you eat it. And yeah, it may look kinda' small, I guess all raw food kinda' looks small now that I think about it, but believe me, it is dense and rich, not as in sweet, but just meaning that it would be difficult to eat more than one of these raw veggie burgers.

The raw Carrot & Sunflower Seed Burger started out with me making the raw "bread" that serves as the buns for the "burger". I made them from a recipe in Alissa Cohen's book, "Living on Live Foods". The main ingredients are sprouted buckwheat and soaked flax seeds. There are quite a few spices added in there too which make it taste really good. Basically, you just mix all of that stuff up in a food processor and then spread it out into sheets and dehydrate them. You can mound it up into big hamburger bun shapes if you want to, but I just did mine in thin sheets and then, when they were about halfway done dehydrating, I took the sheets out and used a glass to cut out small circles that I knew would be able to fit into the lunchbox. I stopped the dehydrating when they were about the texture of bread. You could easily let them continue on and dry down further until they got crunchy and then use them as Live Crackers. I'll probably try that soon, because I do like the taste of this stuff. You'll probably see me use them as mini pizza crusts too at some point. Basically, this stuff made from sprouted buckwheat & flax could serve as any kind of bread, or cracker, or wrapper for a raw vegan food dish.

The "burger" part is just kinda' made up based on one of my favorite cooked veggie burger recipes, which in turn is a clone of the Sunshine Burger, which is one of my favorite storebought veggie burgers. SHEESH! I just soaked some sunflower seeds for a few hours, then put them in the food processor with some carrots, onion, garlic and basil and then just processed the whole thing until it turned into a dough like consistency that I could mold into patties. I just dehydrated them for a few hours and they were done. To make the complete burger I just took a couple of pieces of the "bread" and put a patty between them along with some raw spinach and tomato. Like I said, this does taste good, but it is kinda' hard to eat too much of it because it tastes so nutrient dense. I don't know if I'll ever bother making these again, because it does take a while to do, but I'm glad I tried them just so I could see what something like this tasted like. I like it.

To go along with my "burger" I've got a salad (a.k.a. some Spinach), and in keeping with the raw vegan theme, my salad dressing is just a small container of some cold-pressed Olive Oil and a big lemon wedge that I can squeeze on the salad. For dessert, I just cup up a few fresh Strawberries.

So there you have it, my very first attempt at some of the fancier raw vegan cuisine. I was pleased with how they came out, but like I said, I'm not sure I like devoting that much prep time to such small food, even though it's not hard work. I'm sure I'll try some more raw cuisine, but I see now that I am definitely not cut out for being a 100% raw vegan at this point.

Today's lunch is definitely healthy though, and low calorie, so it will hopefully help me lose some more weight this week. It's finally starting to warm up again around here, so I can finally get back into the groove of walking every day. With that cold snap that we had last week, my walking schedule was seriously interrupted. In fact, I was surprised that I even lost any weight last week, but I did. Of course, the cold is really no excuse considering that I have a treadmill at home (hangs head in shame). Anyway, I AM walking today and the rest of this week.

So thanks for checking out the blog today. See everybody on Thursday!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Lolo's Crispy Sweet & Sour Seitan

When I was thinking about what I was gonna' fix for lunch today, I knew that I wanted to make something from the beef-style seitan that I made this past weekend. And it really wasn't hard to decide which recipe to use because there's one that's been going around the message boards and it seems like everybody and their brother has been making it and loved it. So, last night, I finally got around to making the Crispy Sweet & Sour Seitan from Lolo's VeganYumYum blog, which just so happens to be one of my favorite vegan blogs. If you don't already know about it (heck, you've probably already made it, I feel like I'm the only vegan on the planet who hasn't made it yet) it's supposedly a very accurate clone of a dish served at a certain restaurant which I know absolutely nothing about. All I knew was that the pictures that everyone had been posting looked awesome, and the recipe itself sounded like it would be delicious. It sounded a lot like General Tso's sauce (or however in the world you spell that), and I LOVE that stuff. So I made it last night.

The recipe was really easy to follow, and I didn't have any trouble making the dish. It turned out just as delicious as everyone said it would. And it does remind me a lot of a General Tso's dish, except maybe a little heavier on the Rice Wine Vinegar. After cooking it though, and eating the first bite, I realized that this was most definitely something that I should not be eating a lot of, or eating on a regular basis if I want to continue to lose weight. There's quite a bit of oil involved in this recipe, and I really didn't have much to drain off at the end of the frying like the recipe says to do because the corn starch on the seitan seemed to have soaked it all up. So yeah, this IS delicious, but it's also full of corn starch & oil. No wonder it tastes so good. I just ate a little bit of it last night, and this is really WAY too much in the lunchbox. I'm planning on probably just eating about half of what I brought. I probably really should have packed it into one of the smaller containers. Anyway, this is a super tasty dish but I definitely need to eat it in moderation. This is one of those things that I would classify as a vegan TREAT, that I should probably only eat from time to time. Of course, you could alter the recipe and make it a lot healthier, which is probably what I'll do the next time I make it. I think next time I'll probably just fry the seitan in a skillet sprayed with a little Canola Oil and leave out the corn starch all together. I know that's what made it so crispy, but I think it would still have a little crispiness to it just from the frying. I made a double batch when I made it last night so there was like 1/2 cup of peanut oil in it. I'll probably try this again in the future and try leaving all of that out. I know it won't be the same recipe then, but I just can't trust myself with something with that much fat & starch in it.

Eating this dish did get me stirred up to make some more General Tso's Tofu (or Tao's or WHATEVER!) though (the recipe from vegweb) and use seitan instead of tofu. If I were to fry it in cornstarch I think it would be just like chicken, but I really don't want to do that in this dish either, so I'll probably just fry the seitan in a quick spray of canola oil to try and make it healthier. I recommend making Lolo's Crispy Sweet & Sour Seitan recipe if you like intensely flavored Asian food, because it's VERY delicious. It's just definitely NOT diet food, but nobody ever claimed it was. Definitely a vegan TREAT.

To go along with the seitan I brought some Steamed Broccoli and some Raw Almonds. And then I've got some "Beefy" Rice that resulted from a little experiment I did and it turned out AWESOME! Remember yesterday when I was talking about seitan cooking broth and how much I hated to throw it out after I was finished making seitan? Well, this time I saved the broth, which was "beef" flavored broth from the recipe in La Dolce Vegan by Sarah Kramer and used it as the liquid part when I made some Brown Rice. I just took 1 cup of Brown Rice and 2 cups of the broth and then heated it to boiling, then reduced the heat and let it simmer, covered, for 40-45 minutes. The result is DELICIOUS. It really does taste "beefy". This would be so good too with some grilled onions added, or maybe peas & carrots, or mushrooms. I am NEVER throwing my seitan cooking broth away again.

So there you have it, two new recipes, one of which I knew was already delicious from everyone else's previous experience, and one that I just kinda' made up to see what it would taste like. Now I have an excuse to make more seitan, just so I can get the broth! Actually, I probably WILL be making a lot more seitan now because it's probably my favorite of the meat-replacement holy trinity, but I just always hated throwing all that broth out at the end, so it kinda' discouraged me from making it. NOT ANY MORE! Now I know that when I make seitan, I'll also be able to make delicious rice dishes, and you know, it would be good for making stuffing too, especially if it was chicken-style broth. I guess that'll be the next thing to try huh?

So thanks for reading my blog today. See everybody on Wednesday.