Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Vegan Dining Out @ Aladdin's Cuisine

If you've been reading my blog for a while, then you might remember a post from a couple of months ago when I was traveling in Savannah, GA and dined at an authentic Middle Eastern restaurant and discovered falafel. I had never had falafel before, well good falafel anyway, and as soon as I tasted the real thing I knew I had discovered something that I loved. Well, I figured that you probably had to live in a town that at least resembled a big city in order to have a restaurant that served Middle Eastern food. I never dreamed that there would be such a place here where I work, in Kingsport, TN. But I was wrong. Who knew there was a place here that served falafel?

Aladdin's Cuisine is located right downtown and it is HUGE. 3 stories to be exact. It's right beside an oriental rug gallery. I think the same man owns both businesses. Anyway, the place is huge and the decor is over the top. Talk about some atmosphere. On the weekends they even have belly dancers. Not to talk bad about where I live, but it IS pretty redneck around here. So it's really amazing that there is such a restaurant here. I just can't imagine people who live around here being willing to try Middle Eastern food. But I guess some of them are. And since I discovered that falafel and hummus are usually safe vegan bets, well, they've made a new customer here too.

I started out by ordering the hummus as an appetizer. I am not lying when I say that this was absolutely the BEST hummus I have ever tasted in my life. They list the ingredients on the menu, and it's just the usual; chickpeas, tahini, garlic & lemon juice. But gosh it sure does taste good. My sever said that the cook was Iranian, so I guess that explains it. That guy just KNOWS how to make awesome hummus. Mmmmmmm... it was good. I only ate about half of it though and boxed the other half up to take home for later. How come my homemade hummus doesn't taste like this?

For my main course, I ordered the falafel. I was expecting it to come as a sandwich on some pita bread, but it didn't. Technically, this wasn't part of the lunch menu, so I guess this is really more of a formal dinner type of way to serve falafel. Anyway, this was also DELICIOUS. It came with a tahini sauce, which I had to confirm didn't contain any dairy (I was afraid there might have been yogurt in it). It was vegan though. It was just tahini thinned out with some olive oil & vinegar. YUM!

The entire meal was EXACTLY what I wanted, yummy Middle Eastern food, and it was DELICIOUS. It was expensive for lunch ($10.95 for the falafel and $5.95 for the hummus), but I wasn't ordering from the lunch menu, and I normally wouldn't have ordered both the hummus AND falafel by myself, but I wanted to try both. I had plenty of both dishes left over to pack up and take home for dinner.

Overall, I was extremely impressed with the restaurant, both the decor and the food. It's a place that I definitely want to eat at again, and I would like to bring some of my coworkers who aren't familiar with Middle Eastern cuisine here too so they can see how delicious the food is. This is one cool restaurant, and I didn't even know it was here. What a wonderful discovery.

So there you have it, my delicious, and HUGE!, Middle Eastern lunch for Wednesday.

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

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Homemade Veggie Burger

After a nice long Memorial Day weekend, I was exhausted (too much sun & too many margaritas). So I took the easy way out with today's lunchbox and just cooked up the last homemade veggie burger that I had in the freezer. I actually made a BUNCH of these things from the recipe at Bunnyfoot's blog on Thursday and took them with me to the campground this weekend. I ended up feeding several of them to some omnivores and even they liked them. Of course, I jazzed them up with Vegenaise, lettuce, pickle, tomato and onion. For the lunchbox today though, I was just in the mood for a pickle.

I doubled the batch and made several veggie burgers and then wrapped them individually in plastic wrap and froze them. Then all I had to do to prepare them was defrost them really quickly in the microwave and throw them in a skillet for a few minutes to brown them up real nice on the outside since they're really already cooked when you bake them initially. I poured on lots of vegan Worcestershire sauce and Montreal Steak Seasoning while grilling them just to make them taste extra yummy.

This is the same recipe that I was tinkering around with a couple of months ago when I got all stirred up and said that I was going to mess around with the recipe until I perfected it into the perfect veggie burger recipe. Well, needless to say, I haven't done that yet. There's just not enough hours in a day, you know. They really are yummy just the way they are though, so I really enjoyed them this weekend, as did everyone else who tried them.

While I was eating them this weekend though, I started wondering if it was really worth it to spend all that time making veggie burgers when a nice grilled Portobello cap probably would have been just as good. Maybe I'll try that next weekend.

Anyway, to go with my burger, I just brought along some french fries that I baked up in the oven. And then I've got a Cashew Cookie Larabar for dessert.

Needless to say, I didn't lose any more weight this week. I ate too much during the holiday weekend. I have been keeping up with my walking though, so I haven't gained any back, but if I want to lose more weight, and get down to my goal of 185, then I'm going to have to start cutting back. So I'm still at 197 lbs. with a total weight loss so far of 28 lbs. I guess I've just gotten too comfortable with my eating since I lost that initial weight. I may need to start counting Weight Watchers Points again or something. At any rate, there's no new weight loss to report, but no gain either.

So I guess that does it for Tuesday's post. I can't decide if I want to pack the lunchbox tomorrow or go out and eat because I just discovered a new restaurant here in town and I couldn't believe that it existed right here. If I end up going there tomorrow I'll share it here on the blog because the fact that a restaurant like this is located around here where I live just blows my mind. I'm pretty sure that I'd like to try it out tomorrow, so brace yourself. :o)

I hope everybody had a great weekend. See you back here tomorrow!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Baked Italian Hummus

Okay, this post is gonna' have to be filed under DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. I was so proud of myself last night while I was making this because I thought I had a really good idea how to recycle a vegan dish that I had a large amount of, but it ended up not working out as well as I thought it might have. So let me save you the trouble of trying this and just let you know that today's recipe is probably not worth trying. :o(

I had so much of that Creamy Chickpea & Tahini Casserole left over from yesterday's lunch that I tried to think of other ways to use it. I got to thinking about the fact that it contained a lot of chickpeas and tahini and I was like, "HUMMUS!"

I love hummus, the regular kind that is, and the kind with roasted red peppers added. So I thought this might be good if I just took some of the leftover casserole and plopped it into the food processor and whirred it into hummus. Since it would basically be hummus with tomatoes & Italian seasonings mixed in, and it was baked, I decided that a name like Baked Italian Hummus might be good.

Well, that might be a good name, but it really didn't end up being a very good dish. The tomato & Italian seasonings tastes are good in this when served HOT as a casserole. They are not so good if you serve it cold as hummus. It wasn't completely revolting or anything, I could eat it. But if it were something that I had ordered in a restaurant, I would make sure to never order it again. So needless to say, I won't be making it again either.

The color came out kinda' icky too. It's almost pink. Obviously, that didn't make it taste any better. I just brought some homemade tortilla chips that I baked up in the oven to eat with it. At least they are really good.

I also brought along some more mixed vegetables from the freezer to finish filling the lunchbox.

If this recipe had turned out decent, I was actually planning on thinning some of the "hummus" down with some soy milk and making a sauce for pasta with it for tomorrow's lunchbox. But as you might guess, I won't be doing that now. Just the thought of it... eww...

But don't let this debacle deter you from trying the original casserole recipe, it is WONDERFUL! Just don't try turning it into hummus. Not too good.

I'm actually going to be taking a break from blogging tomorrow (Friday) and Monday since it's a holiday weekend and I won't be going to work. I'll probably just end up eating some sammiches at the house so I won't bore you with those. If I accidentally whip up anything wonderful I might do a quick post, but that probably won't happen because I plan on taking it easy these next four days and doing absolutely NOTHING except laying by the pool.

So thanks for reading the blog this week and I'll see everybody next Tuesday back at work with the lunchbox (with something GOOD in it).

Have a GREAT holiday weekend!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Creamy Chickpea & Tahini Casserole

Today I've got a new item in the lunchbox from a recipe that I recently discovered online. It sounded so yummy, and it had such good reviews and it had the words "comfort food" in the description, so I HAD to try it. The reviews were right, this is a really yummy recipe, and cheap too. Plus, it makes a TON of food, so it's really good for eating on several days or feeding a really large group. And like the recipe says, it's really open to modification. I imagine a nice crusty topping of bread crumbs or corn flakes would really be delicious on this. Of course, it's yummy just the way it is.


Creamy Chickpea & Tahini Casserole
is really easy to make. It just involves mixing some chickpeas, onions, some brown rice, a few spices and some tahini and then baking it. It's one of the easiest recipes that I've tried but boy does it taste good. This is something that I would like to make this year at Thanksgiving and take to my parents' home for everybody to try. I know they would like it.

My mind is also racing with other ideas of how to modify the leftovers to turn it into other dishes for subsequent lunches. I have an idea for something to try tomorrow, so I guess I'll do it and see how it turns out. I even have another idea for Friday, so if my first experiment ends up being edible then I may even try another. At any rate, this recipe made a huge tasty pan of food. It's pretty healthy too. If I weren't trying to have something different every day for my blog, I could probably just make pans of this stuff and live on it.

Anyway, to go along with the casserole I just brought some more vegetable mixes from the freezer, as well as some blueberries for dessert.

So that's basically it for today's lunch. I really like making casseroles since they are usually so easy to make and they make so much food that I can eat on them for several days. This one turned out really good (the reviews were right!) and it's definitely something that I will be making again in the future. I am also hopeful that the couple of modifications that I have in mind mean that I'll be able to squeeze a couple more different meals from this one huge dish. I hope it turns out as good as I think it will. Stay tuned to find out...

So thanks for reading my blog today. See everybody tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Vegan Dining Out @ Giuseppe's

Well, I had to go out for lunch today with the group from work. We were celebrating someones new assignment in a different area so, of course, that person got to pick the restaurant. Lucky for me, they chose Giuseppe's, which is a local Italian restaurant. You might remember a post from the past where I ate at another local Italian place called Raffaele's. Well, this place is owned by the same family, except it's a little more upscale, and a little pricier. That really didn't matter for me though because the boss ended up paying for it. WOO-HOO! Free vegan lunch!

I knew we were going out to eat today, so I really skimped on breakfast because I knew I would probably be eating a lot at lunch. I just had a couple of pieces of light toast since I didn't want to skip breakfast altogether since that's not so good for your metabolism. So by the time lunch rolled around I was starving. I was so hungry in fact, that I forgot to take a picture of my salad because I inhaled it at soon as it hit the table. At any rate, it was just a simple salad since I had all the non-vegan ingredients left off, so you're not really missing anything. It was good though, and I just got the individual bottles of olive oil and balsamic vinegar to dress my salad with. The balsamic vinegar that they had was extremely good. It was quite a bit sweeter than most others I have tried. It was so good I was passing it all around the table and several other people enjoyed it as well.

I ended up ordering a dish off the menu called Pasta Toscana. I asked for them to make it vegan by leaving off the cream sauce and just giving me the pasta & veggies stirred up some olive oil and roasted garlic. There's bowtie pasta with shiitake mushrooms, spinach, sundried tomatoes and walnuts in there. YUMMY! It was kinda' funny though because I was trying to tell the server that I needed my food to be modified since I'm a vegan and she said, "What? You're a villain?" I'm not sure that she ever even really got it because after I asked for the omission of the cream sauce, she asked me if I wanted chicken on it. Um, no. Anyway, I was worried about what I might get, but it came out exactly like I asked for it to, and it was delicious! Several people in my group eyed my plate and commented that my food looked really good. I think one or two of them might have been envious of the vegan food today.

Anyway, it ended up being a really nice lunch and I was extremely pleased with what I ordered. It tasted really, really good. I'm gonna have to be extra good for dinner tonight to make up for eating so much for lunch though. Maybe just a green smoothie or something. Although I am going to try a new recipe that I've been wanting to try tonight so I can have something new in the lunchbox tomorrow. It's fairly healthy, so perhaps I will indulge in a little bit of that dish later this evening. It sounds like a really good recipe and I am excited to try it and share it here on the blog.

So thanks for coming by the blog today.

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

Monday, May 21, 2007

Vegan Buffalo Chicken Sandwich

Unfortunately, I saw a commercial for a certain fast food chain this weekend and they were advertising their new Buffalo Chicken sandwich. Well, that's all it took. I absolutely love Frank's Hot Sauce and welcome any opportunity to eat it. So, I just whipped up my own vegan version of this sandwich for my lunchbox today.

All I did was pack a Boca Chik'n Patty along with a light bun and a small container of Frank's Hot Sauce. I guess, technically, to make buffalo sauce, you are supposed to mix equal parts of the hot sauce and melted margarine, but I certainly don't want to add that many calories and that much fat to my lunch, so I just use the hot sauce by itself.

I love to make vegan versions of hot wings too. I had one version, using seitan, here on the blog quite a while ago. I also made a different version once using tempeh after seeing it demonstrated by a few people on various other message boards & blogs. I just love the flavor of the hot sauce, and the more fumes the better.

To go along with my sandwich, I brought a couple of containers of different steamed vegetables. The larger container has broccoli, cauliflower & carrots while the smaller container has peas, corn, carrots and green beans. Lucky for me, I like my veggies. And these just came from the freezer, so all I did was pour them straight out of the bags and then I'll heat them up a lunchtime in the microwave.

To finish filling the lunchbox, I threw in a few raw cashews. I think cashews are probably my favorite nut. I have to watch myself when I eat them though because I don't have very good self control around them. They do fill me up though, I guess because of the fat content, so that's one reason why I like to add them to the lunchbox. Well, they taste good too. Sometimes I eat them with my lunch, kinda' like dessert, but sometimes, if there's enough other stuff to fill me up at lunch, I like to leave the nuts and have them later in the day, like around 2PM, as a nice snack. Just depends on how ravenous I am at lunchtime.

So that does it for Monday. It was such a pretty day yesterday that I didn't want to spend too much time in the kitchen cooking, so after seeing that commercial and getting all stirred up about buffalo sauce, I took the easy way out and slung together this simple, but tasty, vegan sandwich.

I'll have to take my camera to work with me again tomorrow because the whole group is going out to lunch again. Sure does seem like we go out for lunch an awful lot at work doesn't it? HA! I think we're going to a local Italian place, so it should be pretty easy for me to find something good to eat there.

Whoops! I almost forgot. It's Monday and time for another weight loss update. And I guess the reason I almost forgot is because, unfortunately, there's nothing new to report this week. I still weigh 197 lbs. So I didn't lose any additional weight last week. That's okay because I know as I get closer and closer to my goal of 185 it will be harder and harder to get the pounds to come off. I am also discovering that it's going to be more challenging to continue to lose weight now that the weather is so beautiful and there are all of these opportunities to overindulge popping up left and right. I am really going to have to be careful and buckle down if I want to make it to 185. I HAVE still lost a total of 28 lbs. though, so I'm not discouraged. I realize it's going to be more difficult from here on out. I've just gotta' stick with it.

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

Friday, May 18, 2007

Black Bean & Vegan Cheese Nachos

Today's lunchbox was really easy to put together. That's good too, because I had plans yesterday evening and didn't want to spend a whole lot of time cooking and worrying about the next day's lunch. With all of the Mexican cooking over the last few days, I had lots of leftovers stored in the fridge. So it was no trouble at all to go through and combine a few of those items to create some delicious Black Bean & Vegan Cheese Nachos.

In fact, everything in the lunchbox is a leftover from the previous couple of days worth of cooking, except for the tortilla chips. Just move your pointer over each item in the lunchbox and text boxes will pop up and tell you what each item is. You might remember a while back when I brought some nachos for lunch and I had a hard time locating baked tortilla chips here where I live. I don't know what it was, but for some reason, none of the local stores that I checked had any baked tortilla chips, so I ended up getting fried ones last time. This time, however, I took matters into my own hands and baked my own tortilla chips. That way, I can cut the fat, to help me with my weight loss, plus they taste a hundred times better anyway when you make them yourself.

All I did was spray a cookie sheet with some canola oil and then use a pizza cutter to cut corn tortillas into little triangle shapes. I normally just cut them into fourths, but since these were for the lunchbox, where space is valuable, I made them a little bit smaller by cutting the tortillas into six pieces. Then I just placed all of those little triangles on the cookie sheet and sprayed the tops of them with a little more canola oil. A quick dusting of salt and they were ready for the oven. I like to use big chunky salt on my chips, it just seems to taste so much better. And not surprisingly, the best salt I've found to sprinkle on my homemade tortilla chips is coarse margarita salt. I just bake the chips in a 425 degree oven for 10 minutes or so. Just watch them until they get nice and brown and crispy. Be careful not to burn them because they can burn on you pretty quickly.

These homemade chips taste so much better than storebought, and they are so much healthier.

So that's really it for Friday's lunchbox. That was one of the easiest lunches I've packed since almost everything was a leftover from a previous day's cooking. That's one of the things I like about Mexican food, with just a few different ingredients you can combine them in all kinds of ways to make different dishes. And speaking of Mexican dishes, I FINALLY finished that Cheesy Bean & Cheese Enchilada Casserole last night. Geez, I ate on that thing for DAYS. It was good though, and I'll definitely be making it again. And that vegan cheese sauce from that recipe is my current favorite vegan cheese replacement. It's so easy to make, and so yummy. I do like to add a little extra salt to it though, and a little bit of salsa to make it turn orange in color so it looks more like cheese sauce.

Well, thanks for reading the blog this week. See everybody on Monday.

Have a great weekend!
HOMEMADE BAKED TORTILLA CHIPSVEGAN CHEESE SAUCEJOANNA'S REFRIED BLACK BEANSVEGAN SOUR CREAM & GUACAMOLEFORK & SPOON

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Baked Black Bean Taquitos

As you can tell from the picture of today's lunchbox, I had a little bit of trouble last night with this dish. But, not to worry, it still tastes really good. That Bean and Cheese Enchilada Casserole that I made for yesterday's lunch put me in the mood for some more Mexican food this week, so last night I just winged it and made some Baked Black Bean Taquitos. I really didn't use a recipe (except for the bean part), but there are several of them out there if you do a search on Yahoo! or Google. I just kinda' made mine up as I went along, but I did encounter a few technical difficulties.

I started out by just making a big double batch of Joanna's Refried Black Beans. That's what I used for the taquito filling. Most taquito recipes that I found online recommended microwaving the corn tortillas prior to filling and rolling so as to make them more pliable and less likely to crack on you. Well, that didn't work out too well for me. My corn tortillas wanted to crack really bad as I tried to roll them up. You can see it in the picture of the lunchbox. After getting my cookie sheet about half covered with rolled up (and cracked) taquitos, I finally spotted what the problem was. I was using corn tortillas that were marked down on clearance at the grocery store. It was a huge pack of 100, but it was the brand I normally buy, so I figured maybe just not enough people bought that large of a size. Anyway, I got to looking more closely and discovered that there was a dang hole in the bag that the tortillas came in! So I guess that's why they were so dry and prone to cracking. I guess I could have spent some time microwaving them in a covered dish with a wet paper towel or something to try and rehydrate them, but I didn't fool with it. By this time, I was so frustrated that I was just slinging the things together and throwing them on the cookie sheet. UGH!

Anyway, after baking them, they turned out really tasty, although they're not too pretty to look at. I brought come Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream and some guacamole to go along with the taquitos, as well as some vegan cheese sauce, which I just whipped up from the recipe for the Bean and Cheese Enchilada from yesterday's lunchbox. I also had tons of that Spanish rice & vermicelli mix left over, so I brought some more of that too.

So there it is, my half-baked (pun intended) attempt at making black bean taquitos. Like I said, they taste really good, I just wish they had rolled up better and came out looking a little bit nicer. Oh well, maybe next time.

Thanks for checking out the blog today. See everybody on Friday!
SPANISH RICEVEGAN CHEESE SAUCEBAKED BLACK BEAN TAQUITOSVEGAN SOUR CREAM & GUACAMOLEFORK & SPOON

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Bean and Cheese Enchilada Casserole

Today's lunchbox features a recipe that I've been wanting to try for a while. I discovered it over at VegWeb while looking at the list of most popular recipes (in the lower right section of the main page). I always like trying recipes from "most popular" lists, and ones that have high rankings, since it makes the chance of failure a little less likely. This recipe had lots of good comments, and I learned a lot from them, like the fact that this dish is a LOT easier to make as a casserole, which is not what I started out doing initially, but ended up doing eventually. Here's how the whole thing went down...

Cheesy Bean and Cheese Enchiladas are really simple to make. You just whip up some vegan cheese sauce, stir in some beans (I used pinto beans, kidney beans and black beans) & onions, roll all of that up into a bunch of corn tortillas, lay them in a pan, cover with enchilada sauce and more vegan cheese sauce and then bake. Or, at least, it's supposed to work that way. I discovered that I didn't have too much luck rolling the filling up in the tortillas. It appeared to be a common problem in the comments, so a lot of people just ended up making the dish casserole style, which is what I did. I got the filling in the tortillas and got them rolled up, and into the pan, but the filling wasn't that thick, so it was difficult to get a decent amount into each tortilla. Plus, it kinda started wanting to ooze out into the pan. After I got the whole pan full of rolled up tortillas, I discovered that there was TONS of filling left over. So, I just dumped all of that extra filling on top of all the rolled up tortillas, spread it out, and then put down another layer of tortillas, just laid out flat. Then I covered the whole thing with the remaining enchilada sauce and reserved vegan cheese sauce.

It came out super yummy, just like the reviews said, but I can see why a lot of people opted to do it casserole style. When I make it in the future, and I WILL be making it again in the future, I will just do it casserole style and not fool with the whole trying to roll beans up in a tortilla thing. This is really delicious, and it makes a lot of food, so I'm sure I'll be eating on the leftovers for several days.

The vegan cheese sauce in this recipe has also gotten my attention because it's a little more simple, and uses smaller amounts of fewer ingredients, than most of the other vegan cheese sauces I have tried. I plan on experimenting with it some more in the future and trying it on macaroni and other obvious cheesy dishes.

To go along with the enchilada casserole, I brought some Spanish rice, which is really just the Kroger brand of the rice & vermicelli mix, you know, like Rice-a-Roni. It's just made from a box of mix and a can of diced tomatoes with chilis. I love this stuff, but I really have to be careful when I eat it because I have a tendency to eat way too much of it.

I also brought some leftover mustard greens. I just couldn't bring myself to bring something more Mexican, like refried beans, since there were already so many beans in the enchilada casserole. Plus, I really like greens now, so I was more than happy to bring some more.

For dessert, I just brought a few Red Globe grapes. I use these things every morning in my green smoothies, so I've always got some hanging out in the fridge.

So there you go. A new Mexican style vegan recipe that turned out pretty dang good. It was really easy to make too, especially when you make a casserole out of it. It would probably be prettier if you could roll them all out and put sauce on them and bake them like you're supposed to do, but I didn't have the patience (or the skill either) to do that. It tastes the same either way, so unless you're super talented at getting runny liquids rolled up in tortillas, I suggest saving yourself some grief and just going the casserole route. Either way, it's delicious.

Thanks for reading the blog today. See everybody tomorrow!
SPANISH RICEMUSTARD GREENSCHEESY BEAN ENCHILADA CASSEROLERED GLOBE GRAPESFORK & SPOON

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Amy's Mexican Tamale Pie

First of all, I'm not sure what's up with the color in the picture of today's lunchbox. I tried doctoring it up on my computer but I didn't have much luck. I guess the color of all that polenta just somehow messed with my camera. Anyway, the picture may have not turned out too great, but today's lunch sure does taste good. While looking through the fridge & freezer last night, trying to figure out what I was gonna' bring for lunch today, I stumbled upon Amy's Mexican Tamale Pie. As you probably know, I love all of the vegan products from Amy's Kitchen. I eat the vegetable pot pies all the time, and the last time I featured that on here, a blog reader mentioned in the comments that the Mexican Tamale Pie was also really good. I had never tried it before because I guess I just assumed it had cheese in it and wasn't vegan. Well, after that recommendation I purchased one and placed it in the freezer at home.

All I had to do last night was just cook it up in the oven and then pack it in the lunchbox. I hadn't read the box too closely, other than to verify that it was indeed vegan, so I was thinking that the top was more like cornbread than polenta, but it's polenta. I was expecting it to brown up a little more than it did, but I was afraid to leave it under the broiler too much longer for fear of burning the paper bowl that it comes in. Maybe polenta just doesn't brown that easy? I don't know, it's my first time dealing with polenta. Isn't it basically just runny cornbread?

Anyway, this thing tastes really good. I hate the fact that my picture came out so crappy, so here's a prettier picture from the Amy's Kitchen website. Something like this would be really easy to make from scratch too, but of course it wouldn't be near as convenient. I figured it would be delicious (everything else I've tried from Amy's has been), and it didn't disappoint. Plus, listen to this, this thing is a good size, the size of a regular pot pie, but it only has 150 calories and 3g of fat! I was impressed. Definitely good for the ol' diet, and very, very tasty indeed.

To go along with the tamale pie, I brought my two most favorite side items; roasted potatoes & onions and mustard greens. These were actually some leftovers from dinner, so I didn't have to do any extra work to make them for my lunch.

And finally, for dessert, I brought one of those new delicious Larabar Jocolat bars. GOSH! These things are so good. They taste just like a brownie, but they're nice & dense, and so chocolaty. I could eat my weight in these things, and so could a few other people, judging from the fact that they can hardly keep them in stock at my local grocery store. These are the most perfect vegan replacement for a regular old candy bar that I have found. If you like chocolate, I highly recommend trying them out (if you can find them).

So there you have it. Amy's Kitchen to the rescue again. You know, this tamale pie was so good that it's inspired me to try a new Mexican recipe that I've been wanting to try for quite a while. I might actually get around to making it for tomorrow's lunch. UGH! And now that's reminded me of ANOTHER Mexican recipe I wanted to try. SHEESH! This may end up being Mexican theme week if this keeps up. I guess we'll see.

At any rate, thanks for checking out the blog today and I'll see everybody tomorrow!
LARABAR JOCOLATROASTED POTATOES & ONIONSAMY'S MEXICAN TAMALE PIEMUSTARD GREENSFORK & SPOON

Monday, May 14, 2007

Home Cookin' @ Rosetta's Kitchen

Well, I ended up getting home really late last night because I went to visit my mom for Mother's Day and we all hang out at the lake all evening. You know how that goes. A little Jimmy Buffett music, a boat ride and some margaritas and you've lost track of what time it is. That, plus the fact that I had to run over to Asheville, NC today meant that I didn't have the time to pack the lunchbox last night. So instead, I just made a quick stop at Rosetta's Kitchen. You might remember that I ate there, for the first time, a few weeks ago on my way back home from Savannah, GA. The food that I got last time was very delicious, so I was more than anxious to stop there again today. And while I tried a dish last time that I had never had before (Peanut Butter Baked Tofu), this time I was in the mood for some vegan comfort food that I am more familiar with. And yes, that is a recycled picture of the street sign at Rosetta's Kitchen. I forgot to take another picture of the outside of the building today. Whoops!

I ended up getting a plate of good ol' country food. I've got a bowl of pinto beans and a plate full of some mashed potatoes with vegan brown gravy and some vegan macaroni & cheese. All served with a huge honkin' piece of vegan cornbread. Needless to say, it was delicious. And man, I wish this place was closer to where I live because it is so nice to be able to go into a restaurant and actually order vegan macaroni & cheese.

And while the macaroni & cheese was very good, it was quite different from my all time favorite mac-n-cheese recipe from the New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook, which I am CONVINCED is the best vegan macaroni & cheese recipe in the world. Everything was really good though, and it was quite nice letting someone else do the cooking for a change.

And speaking of changes, I guess it's time for another weight loss update. Just to recap, for anyone who might not have been reading the whole thing, a couple of months ago (I guess it's been about that long) I weighed myself and weighed the most I have ever weighed in my life, 225 lbs. I set out to try and eat healthier and exercise more with the intention of losing a total of 40 pounds and getting down to 185 lbs. Last week, I weighed in at 199 lbs. This weekend, I am happy to report, that I weighed in at 197 lbs. That means that I have lost 28 pounds so far. WOO-HOO! And you can actually tell too. I am starting to get more comments from people as the weight loss begins to show more in my face. My pants are a whole lot more loose too. In fact, it's all I can do to keep my favorite pair of shorts on right now because they keep wanting to fall down. Guess it might be time to maybe think about buying some new clothes huh?

So that means I've got 12 more pounds to go. That's really not that much, but I assume the last few pounds will probably be the hardest to lose. I'm really gonna' have to buckle down and quit eating like a maniac on the weekends. 197 really isn't that far away from 185, so hopefully that will help to keep me motivated.

The blood pressure machine at work is screwed up right now, so I can't give a really recent report on that. The last time I checked it, a couple of days ago, it was 105/69 which is AMAZING for me. I'm excited about the weight that I've lost and the significant changes in my blood pressure.

So there you have it, a slightly unexpected vegan lunch on the road. I'll be back at work with the lunchbox tomorrow.

See you then!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Vegan Pepperoni & Mushroom Pizza

I was in a pizza kind of mood last night at dinner time, so I whipped up some vegan pepperoni & mushroom pizza. And while I was at it, I went ahead and made some extra for today's lunchbox. Now, I was a serious pizza addict long before I became vegan, and I still am. But luckily, vegan pizza is a lot healthier for me than the greasy cholesterol-laden junk that I used to eat. I wish we had a restaurant around here like Pizza Pi, in Seattle. But I guess the chances of an all vegan pizza joint opening up around here are somewhere between slim and none. Oh well, I guess I'll just continue to make my own homemade vegan pizza and enjoy it. Either that or move to Seattle. Hey, if vegan pizza isn't a reason to move, I don't know what is.

I just made some small pizza crusts using my favorite recipe. Again, I either let these rise too much, or maybe I just put too many toppings on my pizza, because I used to be able to stack both halves of the pizza in the lunchbox, but not this time. It was too thick. So I only ended up bringing half of a pizza for lunch. I topped the pizza with some storebought pizza sauce, Yves Veggie Pepperoni, mushrooms, onion and green pepper. Then I topped it all off with some Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet Mozzarella. I don't know if I'll even reheat this when lunch time comes because I've always liked cold pizza, and I think the FYH cheese is even more like the real thing after it's been cooked & melted and then cooled back down. I guess I'll see what I'm in the mood for when I actually eat it.

To go along with my pizza, I brought some steamed veggies. These are just the regular California Blend of broccoli, cauliflower and carrots found in the freezer section of any old grocery store.

I wasn't sure what I wanted to bring for dessert, so I just started looking through the kitchen. I kinda' wanted to bring something a little bit different. I looked and looked and then finally stumbled upon a great big jar of applesauce in the fridge. I bought it for use in reduced fat baking, and have used it for that several times, but it had been a while since I used it. I had even forgotten it was in there. I figured that might make a good dessert, but then I realized that they probably dump tons of sugar into applesauce, and it might not be as good in the calorie department as I thought it was. Well, I looked at the jar and was pleasantly surprised to find out that I was apparently being a good boy when I bought this because it was all natural applesauce, with absolutely no added sugar. I was actually surprised that I had bought that because I bought it before I really started trying to pay more attention to what I am eating. I was actually a little bit proud of myself. I sprinkled a little bit of cinnamon on top of the applesauce just to make it extra delicious.

So there you have it, Friday's lunchbox. You really can't go wrong with vegan pizza. It's delicious, it travels well, and you can enjoy it hot or cold, which makes it especially nice for when you're not around a microwave.

Thanks for reading the blog this week and I'll see everyone on Monday.

Have a great weekend!
BROCCOLI, CAULIFLOWER & CARROTSAPPLESAUCEVEGAN PEPPERONI & MUSHROOM PIZZAFORK & SPOON

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Curried Tempeh Salad Sandwich

You know, sometimes it's really cool what you can come up with when you just wing it and make stuff up when you're cooking. Yesterday evening, I really didn't know what I was going to pack for lunch today. There were a couple of pieces of grilled tempeh left over from the reuben making the day before, so I originally thought that I might just bring some grilled tempeh (which IS good) and some veggies and stuff. But then I remembered an idea that I had been wanting to try for a while now, but I just never did have any tempeh around to try it with. This all sprang from a grand opening celebration for a local restaurant that I went to several years ago, way before I turned vegan. They had this yummy curried chicken salad that they served that was so good. In fact, I meant to whip some of that up at home way back then, before I knew any better, when I was still eating chicken salad. But I never did. Pair that idea with something else I've been wanting to try, and that's using tempeh as a replacement for chicken in vegan "chicken" salad. I had read on several message boards about people making tempeh salad, and it sounded like it would be really good. So when I found myself with some leftover tempeh, and a pantry stocked with curry powder, then I knew what I needed to fix for lunch today.

All I did to make the Curried Tempeh Salad was just cube up the tempeh into really small pieces. I didn't have to worry about cooking it since it was already grilled. Then I just mixed that up with some Vegenaise, some diced onion, some sweet pickle relish and a BUNCH of curry powder. WOW! This turned out really good. So good, in fact, that I'll probably make another large batch of it pretty soon because it tasted pretty much exactly what I remember that curried chicken salad tasting like. I brought along a light bun and some lettuce & tomato to eat it on. This makes a REALLY good sandwich. I will DEFINITELY be making this again this Summer. I thought that the tempeh made an excellent substitute for chicken because it had a really nice texture. Tofu would have been way too soft, but the tempeh worked really well. And it looked just like chicken there in those tiny little cubes. This was GOOD!

To go along with my sandwich, I brought a few Red Globe grapes. I found these things by accident the other day at the store. I've been buying a LOT of grapes here lately to go into all of those green smoothies that I've been making with my Blendtec. Well, I've looked and looked for grapes WITH seeds but I never could find them. All anybody has around here is seedless. I wanted ones with seeds because there are so many compounds in the seeds that are good for you, and the Blendtec would make easy work of the seeds and you wouldn't even be able to tell they were in the smoothie (I like the crunch of the seeds too when you just eat grapes one at a time). Plus, it just seems more healthy to eat "normal" grapes that have seeds instead of ones that have been manipulated to express some mutation of not having seeds. Anyway, for some strange reason, they got these things in stock at my local grocer last week and they were even on sale. I stocked up and I LOVE THEM. These things are HUGE! I hope they continue to carry them.

I also threw in a few almonds & raisins just to finish filling the lunchbox up.

So there you have it, lunch for Thursday. I definitely wanna' make some more of this stuff. I would also like to make some regular vegan "chicken" salad using tempeh and adding Vegenaise, onions, sweet pickle relish, walnuts or pecans, celery, grapes, apples, etc. I guess if I was going to do something like that I would probably cook the tempeh especially for that particular dish and marinate and cook it in a chicken-type broth, probably like the broth that I would use to make chicken style seitan. The tempeh I used today for the curried tempeh salad was leftover from the reuben recipe, so it had been marinated in a more beefy type marinade, but it was still delicious. This is good stuff!

So thanks for reading the blog today. See everybody on Friday!
RED GLOBE GRAPESALMONDS & RAISINSLIGHT BUN, LETTUCE & TOMATOCURRIED TEMPEH SALADFORK & SPOON

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Tempeh Reuben

Today for lunch, I've got one of my all-time favorite vegan dishes. I've wanted to bring this in the lunchbox for quite a while now, but I just never was sure exactly how to split it all up and package it into the lunchbox without ending up with a big soggy mess. Tempeh reubens, as most of you probably already know, are really delicious. The first one that I ever had was homemade, but I have since had them at a couple of vegetarian restaurants. The ones that I had in restaurants were good, but they were nowhere near as good as the ones that I enjoy at home. So after a little brainstorming, I think I finally came up with a way to transport this thing to work so that it would be just as yummy there as it is at home.

This tempeh reuben, the best one in the whole wide world as far as I am concerned, is made using the recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I assume that most people who read my blog already have this cookbook, but if you don't, you HAVE to go an get it right now. It was this cookbook that helped convince me that it was even possible for me to go vegan in the first place because all of the recipes are so delicious. And now here, a year and a half, and several vegan cookbooks later, it's still the cookbook that I go to the most often when I want to make something that I know will be delicious. Everything that I have made from that cookbook has been EXCELLENT.

The recipe's really not that hard. All you do is slice up some tempeh and then marinate it in a yummy mixture for an hour or so. Then fry it up in a skillet. There, the first part is done. Now just whip up your vegan Russian dressing in a small bowl. That takes all of 2 minutes. Then just spread some Earth Balance on some dark rye bread and grill it in a skillet (hey! that rhymes). Now just layer all of these things on your grilled bread; some grilled tempeh, big pickle slices, avocado, sauerkraut (sometimes I put it on cold, and sometimes I heat it up, just depends on what kind of mood I happen to be in, or how lazy I am), and then drown the whole thing with Russian Dressing. It's sooooo messy, but soooooo good.

The bread that I bought yesterday seems a little bit large, and the tempeh may look a little sparse there, but trust me, once I pile all of that sauerkraut on there and pour on the dressing, it will be a substantial sandwich.

Tempeh reubens really are one of my favorite vegan foods. I think I could live on these things. I actually brought one to work back when I wasn't blogging and I just assembled the whole sandwich at home the night before and put it in a plastic container. Needless to say, by the time lunchtime arrived, it was fairly soggy. It was still very tasty, but soggy. This time I put the bread, tempeh, pickle and avocado together on one side of the lunchbox, and packed the sauerkraut and the Russian dressing in separate containers. This way, I can heat up the bread & tempeh in the microwave at work and then pile on the sauerkraut and dressing right before I devour the sandwich. Soggy sandwich problem solved. Of course, there is another piece of bread that goes with this sandwich, but I left if out of the picture so you could see the tempeh & stuff. After I took the pic, I put the top piece of bread on and the lunchbox lid closed with no problem.

I should probably also mention that I have let an omnivore coworker taste this before, and they agreed that it was delicious. I plan on serving some to my family this Summer, at some point, to see what they think. They all like reubens, but they've never had a vegan one. My coworker liked it, so I'm hopeful. I can't imagine anyone, vegan or not, not liking this.

Well, with the big sandwich taking up so much room in the lunchbox, I only had enough room there up top to cram in a Banana Cookie Larabar. That's plenty though, because the Larabar weighs in at around 200 calories, and who know WHAT the reuben is. So this is more than enough to satisfy me for lunch.

If you haven't made tempeh reubens before, you must do so as quickly as possible. You don't know what you are missing. So messy! So yummy!

Well, I guess that just about does it for Wednesday.

Thanks for checking in today. See everybody tomorrow!
BANANA COOKIE LARABARTEMPEH REUBENSAUERKRAUTVEGAN RUSSIAN DRESSINGFORK & SPOON

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Garbanzo Tacos

I decided yesterday that I was going to bring some type of soft tacos for lunch today, and I originally planned on just mixing up a box of that storebought TVP-based taco filling. But then I remembered a recipe that caught my eye a week or so ago over on VegWeb. Instead of using TVP, or seitan, or something like that for meat replacement, the recipe used chickpeas. It seemed like an interesting concept. It had pretty good reviews from people who had tried it, and it would be cheaper to make. So I decided to try it.

Garbanzo Tacos are really simple to make. All you do is dump two cans of chickpeas into a pot (just use the juice from one can and drain the other one), then dump in a package of storebought taco seasoning (watch out for milk because some of the brands contain it), and then simmer for 10-15 minutes. Mash it up a little bit and you're good to go. I brought some soft flour tortillas to put mine on. They're laying up there in the lid of the lunchbox and just lay flat on top of everything else when the lunchbox lid is closed. I also brought some lettuce & tomato, as well as some taco sauce, to complete the soft tacos.

For a side dish, I brought along some refried beans, which are just the fat-free storebought variety right out of a can, but thinned down a little bit with some soymilk and spiced up with a little garlic & cumin. I usually like to buy the "vegetarian" version of these at Kroger, but they were out. The fat-free version is also vegan, it's just that the vegetarian version has a little bit of fat in it from some vegetable oil which, of course, makes it tastier in my book. But do I really need that? No. I noticed another can sitting there on the shelf that said "mexican" style, so I, of course, picked it up to see if that meant what I figured it did. Yep. It did. LARD. Ew.... Anyway, I ended up getting the fat-free version.

And for my "dessert" I just threw in a few raw cashews since there wasn't very much room left there in the yellow lunchbox container.

These Garbanzo Tacos are good, and I'm glad I tried them, but they're probably not my favorite. The chickpeas made a nice substitution for something "meaty", but I wouldn't call it a replacement. It's really just more like eating a bean burrito than something where you are trying to simulate meat. So it's not bad, but it really is more like a bean burrito than anything. If I were going to eat chickpeas in some form on some type of bread, I think I would rather invest a little more time and make falafel and enjoy it on pita bread. That's just me though.

As you probably already know, there are lots of interesting recipes over there at VegWeb. There are four or five that I am REALLY interested in and would like to try soon. The ratings and reviews make it easy to spot the recipes that are most likely to be winners.

Well, I guess that's about it for Tuesday's lunch. The Garbanzo Taco recipe is good, especially if you like bean burritos and such, but it's certainly not something that I would consider to be a mock meat. It's definitely worth trying though, because it does taste good, and recipes don't get much easier than that.

So thanks for stopping by the blog today. See you tomorrow!
SMALL FLOUR TORTILLASLETTUCE & TOMATOGARBANZO TACO FILLINGTACO SAUCERAW CASHEWSREFRIED BEANSFORK & SPOON

Monday, May 07, 2007

Eggless Deviled Egg Tofu Salad Sandwich

I finally got around to trying out a new recipe for the lunchbox today. The funny thing is though, I really didn't even like eggs that much before I went vegan. I never ate them scrambled or fried. Except for using them as ingredients in other recipes (like CAKE!), I rarely consumed them. There were TWO ways that I enjoyed eating them though, even though I didn't do it very often. I always liked deviled eggs and I always liked egg salad sandwiches. And of course, growing up here where I did, there was always an abundance of both at most Summer cookouts or other functions. So when I discovered this recipe for Eggless Deviled Egg Tofu Salad, I knew that it was something that I wanted to try. I had seen several vegan egg salad recipes floating around but this one sounded like it might be the best one. The fact that it was from Isa (author of VwaV), just made me want to try it even more, because I don't think I've tried a single recipe that she's put her name on that I didn't just absolutely love.

As you can see from the recipe, the main thing that sets this recipe apart is the addition of black salt. I had never seen such an ingredient, so when I managed to stumble upon it at the Indian grocer last week, well I grabbed it specifically so that I could try this recipe. If you've never seen or used black salt, it's really kind of pink looking. And the reason that it's so good in this recipe is because it's salt that contains deposits of sulfur, so when you add it to a mock egg salad, it makes it taste, well, like eggs. This stuff was really easy to make, and it's delicious to boot. I did alter the recipe a little by mixing in a little Vegenaise at the end. I also added a little sweet pickle relish, just because that's the way that I always had egg salad. The next time I make it I might even increase the amounts of black salt & vinegar (maybe add some vinegar in directly at the end instead of just boiling the tofu in it and then draining). I really like that "deviled egg" taste, so I would be all for any way to increase it. The texture of the tofu ends up being strikingly similar to eggs. I dare say even an omni might like it, if they like egg salad.

I brought a light bun to put my egg salad on, along with some lettuce & tomato. It's easier to fit a bun in the lunchbox than big square bread slices. That, plus I was out of sliced bread. HA! I used it all up this weekend making toast to eat this egg salad on. HEY! I have to properly test the recipe before showing it on here. ;o)

I did pack the egg salad in its own container so it wouldn't get the bread all soggy before lunchtime.

Then I brought my two standard sides, some greens, mustard greens to be exact, cooked up with some onion & garlic, and some roasted potatoes & onions that I just cooked up in the toaster oven and sprinkled with a little garlic salt & Montreal seasoning. YUM!

That filled the lunchbox up, leaving no room for dessert, but I think I've got enough calories here anyway. And speaking of calories, after a couple of weeks of watching my weight stick at 201 lbs. I am happy to report that my weight this weekend was 199 lbs. YIPEE! I lost another two pounds and am finally below that 200 mark. I feel so much better now that my weight starts with a number 1 instead of a number 2. That leaves me with only 14 more pounds to go in order to get to my goal of 185 lbs. I would actually like to go a little lower than that, but if I can just make it there I will be very pleased. I think one thing that finally got my weight loss moving again this week was the fact that I started using my new pedometer to keep track of my walking. Until I got it, I had just assumed that I was getting in the recommended 10000 steps a day. Well, I wasn't. I was actually only getting in 6000-7000 steps. It definitely helped to have a piece of equipment to count my steps for me so that I could make sure that I was doing as much as I thought I was doing. It shows distance & calories too, which is cool. It's so nice to look at that thing and see that I've burned 571 calories walking a couple of times a day. It helps keep me encouraged to be able to put a number on it like that.

Anyway, that means I've lost 26 lbs. so far, and I can tell. Only 14 more (at least) to go. And on another health related note, listen to this. My blood pressure has always been high, and I am currently taking medication for it. As you know, normal BP is 120/80, but before I started medication, it was not uncommon for me to check mine and get a reading of 150/110 or something like that. So I started the medication a few years ago. I hate taking pills, but I HAD to get that down. Even with the pills though, it would normally run 129/87, just a little bit on the high side. Well, the last time I checked it, while on medication, it was a little high like that (129/87) and that was 2 weeks ago. I haven't lost any additional weight in the past two weeks, but there was one significant change in my lifestyle, I started drinking green smoothies. I don't know if they're the cause for this, or not, but now, the last time I checked my blood pressure it was 105/69. WOW! What a difference. I don't feel light headed either. I've checked it several days in a row and it is holding down there. I am inclined to think that consuming all those greens has something to do with this because that's really the only thing that has changed in the past two weeks.

I have an appointment with my new doctor coming up, so I will be excited to tell him about this. Hopefully, we will cut the dosage of that medicine down and see what it does and, eventually, I'll be able to stop taking that stuff. Anyway, I don't know why I got off on a rant about that. I'm just excited that my blood pressure is that low, and I honestly think it's happened just from eating lots of greens. I'm sure the weight loss helps too, but I've lost lots of weight before (and then gained it back) and I've never seen my BP this low. I guess I should add that disclaimer here that I am not a doctor and am not giving medical advice. It will be interesting to see what he says about it though.

At any rate, that was my lunch for Monday. The Eggless Deviled Egg Tofu Salad is delicious, especially on toast, and I highly recommend trying it.

Thanks for coming by today. See everybody on Tuesday!
YUMMY MUSTARD GREENSROASTED POTATOES & ONIONSLIGHT BUN, LETTUCE & TOMATOVEGAN DEVILED EGG SALADFORK & SPOON

Friday, May 04, 2007

Falafel

For my lunch today, I brought a homemade version of something that I have been really stirred up on ever since that trip to Savannah, and that's falafel. Prior to my trip, the only falafel that I had ever tried before came from the freezer section of a health food store and it was absolutely horrible. I had to spit it out into the garbage because I couldn't even eat it. I don't remember what the brand name was but it was absolutely disgusting. So I thought that I didn't like falafel. Eating falafel in that Middle Eastern restaurant in Savannah though, showed me that I actually LOVE falafel, and it was just the frozen stuff that wasn't worth a flip.

Shortly after I got back from my trip, I made some homemade falafel using a recipe that I found online. It was pretty simple. It didn't come out anywhere near as tasty as that from the restaurant though. So I've continued looking. Then melanie, a local blog reader and soap maker extraordinaire, informed me in the comments section that one of the local health food stores actually carried falafel mix in the bulk section. I had been meaning to get by there and get some of that stuff so I could try it, but when I stopped at the Indian grocery the day before yesterday, I found a box of falafel mix there that looked like it would be really authentic (i.e. it had words on the box that were not in English). So I bought it and last night I actually got around to making it. It was easy. All I had to do was mix some of the falafel mix with water, let it soak a little while, then pat it out into little balls or patties and then cook them. I wanted to go easy on the fat so I baked them rather than fry them.

To go with the falafel I brought some pita bread, some lettuce, tomato & cucumber, and some homemade hummus. You know, hummus is my favorite snack food now and I am getting pretty dang good at making it, if I do say so myself. Especially now, with that new Blendtec Home Total Blender, I can make the creamiest, most delicious hummus that I have ever had. Of course, what would you expect when you blend hummus up with a 3 horsepower motor. HA! I briefly thought about just using pure tahini as my condiment, but I decided not to (again, the fat, you know).

This turned out really well, but it's still not as good as what I had in that restaurant. Of course, I may never be able to recreate the taste of real falafel made by an actual man from the Middle East, but I can keep trying. I am thinking that his recipe may have been a little different than what I have tried so far. For example, based on texture, I am almost positive that his falafel had bulgur wheat in it. I have seen a few falafel recipes online that contain it, so perhaps I need to try one of those next. At any rate, this falafel from the mix is nothing I would turn my nose up at. It's pretty tasty, it's just not as amazing as I want it to be.

Not that it matters, but I had to do a little rearranging of the lunchbox right after I snapped this photo so that everything would fit. I actually brought four balls of falafel, not just three like shown in the picture, but I couldn't fit them all into that small container. So after the picture was taken, I actually put two of the falafel balls under the pita bread (there was tons of room there) and left the other two in the little container. So it IS possible to fit all of this into the lunchbox, just not exactly like I arranged it there to make a pretty picture.

So thanks for reading my blog this week. I'll see you guys on Monday.

Have a great weekend!
LETTUCE, TOMATO & CUCUMBERHUMMUSPITA BREADFALAFELFORK & SPOON

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Vegan Dining Out @ Rush Street Grill

I went out to eat lunch again today because my group was having a send-off for a member who is leaving our group. I really would have preferred not to have eaten out again this week, since that seems to make it more difficult for me to lose weight, but I didn't want to be rude, so I went and just tried to eat as healthy as I could. The person we were all roasting chose Rush Street Grill as the place to have our gathering. If you've been reading my blog for very long, then you've probably seen me go there before. There are a couple of good vegan options there, and the choices that they DO have are very good. They've got a nice outside dining area too, so I really like to go there and eat lunch when the weather is nice.

I decided just to get an individual pizza for my lunch. I had already quizzed them here about the ingredients in their pizza dough during a previous visit, so I didn't have to bother them with all of that this time. I just ordered extra sauce and a bunch of veggies and it turned out really good. I did order a few less veggies than I did the last time I ate here because I almost had too many veggies on my previous pizza (if that's possible) and it made it come out a little bit dry. As you can see from my picture though, this one was really juicy with lots of extra sauce, which I love, because I am a lycopene addict.

I briefly considered ordering a salad to go along with this but ultimately decided against it. I know that the veggies in a salad wouldn't have added that many calories to my lunch, but I would have had to put oil & vinegar on that salad, and I know I could have went easy on the oil, but I really didn't want to feel bloated after lunch today so I skipped the salad and just got the pizza. It turned out good because I was satisfied when I left, but I wasn't so full that I felt sick.

I usually eat too much, so I was happy that I was able to control myself somewhat and eat a little less food. Of course, it's not like I turned down chocolate cake or anything, I just didn't order a salad. It probably really didn't matter as far as calories and weight loss go, but I just didn't want to feel miserable after lunch because I ate too much.

So there's another vegan dining out excursion. I hope there's nothing else coming up at work in the near future because I really need to cut back on all of this eating out stuff. I haven't been able to lose a pound since all of that eating out started in Savannah a couple of weeks ago, and I am bound and determined that I am gonna' lose a pound or two this week. So I'm going to have to be extra good the rest of the week, which I HAVE been trying to do. For example, some friends wanted me to join them last night for drinks at one of our favorite watering holes. Normally, I would be inclined to join them, but I turned it down this week and stayed home and did a couple of things that I NEEDED to do. I want to lose some more weight more than I want a drink.

So thanks for coming by the blog today.

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

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Vegan Dining Out @ Raffaele's

A coworker and I met our boss for lunch today and they were kind enough to let me suggest the restaurant since I am the "pickiest" eater. Like I mentioned yesterday, I would have been happy going to Cootie Brown's again, but we've all eaten there the last several times that we went out for lunch together, so I figured I'd better suggest somewhere different at least once. I ended up deciding on a local Italian restaurant called Raffaele's. The family that owns this restaurant owns several other Italian restaurants in the area, the main differences being atmosphere and maybe cost. Raffaele's is kinda' what I consider to be the "middle" of the three types of restaurants that they have. The food is delicious at all three, it just depends on what type of restaurant you would like to eat in and how much you would like to spend.

I started out by ordering a side salad for my lunch. I thought I had myself covered just by asking the server to make sure there was no cheese or bacon bits on my salad, but then she asked me if I wanted croutons. I had forgotten about those, and it seems like a lot of ready made croutons have butter or Parmesan cheese on them, so I told her to leave those off too. Then she asked me if I wanted egg on it. DANG! I'm glad she asked because I wouldn't have been expecting egg on it. Needless to say, I left the off too. That pretty much left me with what you see. Just some iceberg lettuce, onion, tomato and cucumber. Not my favorite salad, but it was fresh.

I almost got burned on the dressing too because when she named off the types of dressing she said that they had a balsamic vinaigrette, and both my boss and coworker thought that would be a good choice for me (they know I'm vegan), and I kinda' did too, but before I could ask, the server said that there was a lot of cheese in that dressing (Parmesan cheese). So she saved me there too. I ended up just getting oil & vinegar. I used the oil very sparingly because I am determined to lose some more weight this week after a couple of weeks of nothing.

For my main course, I ended up ordering some penne pasta with marinara sauce. They have another dish there that I have had before, and that I like a lot, and I almost ordered it. It's just angel hair pasta with olive oil & garlic. It's very delicious, but there's quite a bit of olive oil in that dish and I just couldn't bring myself to order it with me trying to minimize my calories this week as much as possible. So I ended up getting the marinara sauce which was exceptional. I guess it was probably homemade, because it sure tasted like it was. Sorry my picture is so stark, but I was sitting right beside a window.

After lunch, my coworker and I made a quick stop over at the Indian grocery across the road before heading back to work. I was so excited because I FINALLY got some agar agar. Now I can try my hand at making some of those vegan block uncheeses that you can slice and eat on crackers. I just never could bring myself to pay what they were asking for that at the health food store, and at the Indian store I got a HUGE bag of it for something like $1.49. Unbelievable. I picked up some falafel mix there too so I can try it and see if it's any better than the homemade falafel that I mentioned on here a week or so ago. I just love going in those ethnic grocery stores. They are so interesting. Oh yeah, I also found black salt, which is some elusive ingredient I have been looking for so I can make vegan egg salad. I know there are lots of vegan egg salad recipes that don't call for black salt, but apparently it's salt that contains some amount of sulfur, so it makes vegan egg salad taste "eggy". I thought it sounded interesting, and I've been wanting to try it. Now I have the black salt (it was cheap) so I can try it soon.

Believe it or not, I've got to go out and eat again tomorrow. Another one of my coworkers is leaving the company and we're all going out to lunch with her tomorrow. I didn't want to be rude and not go, but this will be my second time eating out this week so I am going to have to try and be extra good tomorrow. I can NOT blow my diet this week.

So there you have it, my little vegan lunchtime excursion. It was really good, and I got some awesome new cooking ingredients at the Indian grocery. Cool!

Thanks for reading the blog today. See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Beans, Greens and Taters

Country food alert! Country food alert! Well, I've done it again. I've whipped up one of those meals that I used to hate, but now I love. I never did like a lot of vegetables when I was growing up, especially beans and greens, but now I absolutely love them. I'm not sure if it's because of changes in taste from getting older, or changes in taste from going vegan. Probably a mixture of the two, wouldn't you say? Whatever the reason, I'm glad it happened because when cooked properly (i.e. without a lot of added fat) this ends up being food that I really enjoy eating because it satisfies my hunger and isn't too damaging in the calorie department.

First of all, I've got some beans in the red container. It's just a mixture of canned Pinto beans and Great Northern beans dumped together. I know that I really should be cooking my beans from scratch with dried beans, but it just seems like there's never time. I never plan ahead with the whole soaking thing. I did cook them from scratch one time and they were SO much better than the canned stuff. I've been speaking with a coworker about it, and maybe it's not as complicated or drawn out as I thought it was because she said that she usually just soaks beans for 1 hour in hot water and then cooks them in the pressure cooker for 25 minutes or so. I thought it took a lot longer than that to soak and/or cook beans. I guess I need to read up on some recipes online and see what the actual deal is. How sad is that? I have no idea how to cook beans.

Then I've got some more delicious greens. I think she was correct in the book, Green for Life by Victoria Boutenko, when she said that drinking green smoothies would make your body naturally crave more greens as it found itself receiving, in abundance, all of the nutrients that it has been missing. I've only been drinking green smoothies for something like a week and a half now but it just seems like I can't get enough greens. I was so happy when I cooked that kale up from scratch and discovered how delicious it was. And this time I cooked mustard greens. Now I can tell you that I DO NOT like mustard greens from a can. I've had them before and I just do not care for them. These were cooked up from scratch though. The mustard greens were on sale at the local grocer this week and I bought several great big bunches of them. I just grilled up some onions and garlic and then wilted the mustard greens and WOW! This stuff is really good. I know most of you are probably laughing at me since you probably already knew that greens were good, but honestly, I thought I hated this stuff. And now I think I could eat it everyday. Oh well, I guess there are worse things to develop a liking for.

I also brought some rosemary roasted potatoes that I just cooked up in the toaster oven. In an effort to save a few calories, I packed those in a small lunchbox container because I could easily eat a five gallon bucket of these. I just love it when you cook potatoes & onions up like this, with a little garlic salt and some rosemary. It reminds me a lot of the french fries over at the Laughing Seed Cafe in Asheville, NC. Of course those are deep fried, but they cook up onions with the french fries and also throw in some jalapeno peppers. YUM! I might try adding a few jalapeno peppers to my roasted potatoes & onions next time. I think it would probably be very delicious.

And then I broke down and brought some bread, Joanna's Cornbread Muffin to be exact. This is still my current favorite cornbread recipe. It has lots of nice flavors since it contains corn, onions, bell peppers and jalapeno peppers. However, there is a recipe over on the message boards at the ppk which caught my eye the other day which contained cream style corn and roasted red peppers. I might be trying that one soon. It sounded really good.

So there's lunch for Tuesday. Nothing complicated. It was all fairly simple to prepare, and there's not a lot of added fat in anything. Just some canola oil spray to get the onions going for the greens, and a little more on the pan that the potatoes & onions roasted on. That's one of my favorite things about Joanna's Cornbread Muffin recipe, by the way. Unlike a lot of other cornbread recipes I've made, hers doesn't call for any added oil or Earth Balance or anything like that. I guess the corn and soy yogurt make up for that (but I never have soy yogurt so I always use Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream) because they always come out nice and moist even though they're not loaded down with oil.

We're meeting our boss for lunch tomorrow, so I'm gonna' have to go out and eat again. I promise we'll go somewhere different than Cootie Brown's. HA! Frankly, though, I wouldn't mind going there again, but I guess we need a little variety, so I think we're leaning towards one of the local Italian places. They're usually pretty easy to eat vegan at. So, depending on what time we all end up meeting, the blog post might be a little delayed tomorrow.

Thanks for stopping by today and I'll see everybody on Wednesday!
MUSTARD GREENS & ONIONSROSEMARY ROASTED POTATOESPINTO & GREAT NORTHERN BEANSJOANNA'S CORNBREAD MUFFINFORK & SPOON