Monday, February 28, 2011

Nice Shoes!!

Could my timing be any better?

It's meant to be. Seriously, it's meant to be.

I started thinking that maybe flirting with the kind life should extend beyond what I put in my body to what I put on it. It didn't make sense to avoid eating animals if I was still going to be wearing them.

So searching for vegan-friendly shoe stores in Vancouver, I came across Nice Shoes.

Vancouver's first cruelty-free footwear shop. Opening March 1. Like, this week March 1. Like, Tuesday. Like, tomorrow.

First the Oprah thing, and now this.

Oh Motivation, I don't know how you do it. You are a clever lad, and for that I am grateful.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Week the Fifth: "Tuna" Salad and a Changing Palette

Well, it kinda rhymes.

Week the Fifth is coming to a close, and I'm feeling swell. Really, really swell. Now, I'm not sure how much of this is in my head and how much is a genuine consequence of flirting with the kind lifestyle, but I feel light and springy and content and just really chill. Like this was just a logical, natural step into the next phase of my life.

And I had to buy new jeans. That part is not in my head. A subtle but pleasant side effect of avoiding nasty foods.

Some Kind Diet recipe highlights this week:

Monday 5.0: Tuna Salad Sandwich (Kinda) (p. 246) / Kim's Red Radish Tabbouleh (p. 226)

I am thrilled to have discovered this "Tuna" salad. It's made with tempeh and the veggies go really well with it, but if you're going to eat it on bread as a sandwich it's a good idea to chop up the veggies more thoroughly than I did. So delicious in spite of the plentiful onions (they're marinated like crazy in the ume plum vinegar, and I couldn't taste them at all...that's a good thing).

The tabbouleh was all right. Perhaps I would have been more impressed with it on its own, but pairing it with the "tuna" salad (which I totally loved) resulted in a recipe that was good, but didn't rock my sox. Rob put raisins in it a few days later to jazz it up, which helped, but I'm still impartial.

One of my students is trying out the vegan thing with her mom for the week, so she brought me a vegan chocolate cupcake.

This. Was. Amazing.

I guess my job does have its perks. I loved the icing because it didn't taste too sugary like the frosting I made for my mom's birthday cupcakes, and I've been hounding my student for the recipe ever since. Would threatening her with a day of cafeteria duty for every day she forgets the recipe be an abuse of my position? Screw it, let's just bring back the switch...much more effective.

Tuesday 5.0: Polenta Casserole with Seitan (p. 223) revisited!

And this time I made it right!! This dish takes me was the first Kind Diet recipe I officially tackled when we started this journey over a month ago, and it turned out pretty runny then because I used prepared polenta rather than cornmeal. But this time it came out great (even though I left out the asparagus because I didn't have any on hand).

It actually maintained its shape. Oh joy! I proceeded to do a Happy Dance and was about half way through my Happy Dance when Rob the husband informed me that the polenta tasted pretty boring to him. I love that he's honest like that and will tell me when the food is boring and when my ass looks big in those pants. It's incentive to find a way to jazz up the food and buy a new pair of pants. I actually thought it tasted pretty good, but my perspective could have been clouded by my elation over the consistency of the casserole.

Wednesday 5.0 was Leftover! Polenta Casserole and Caesar Salad (p. 175). I was just happy to see the casserole standing up, and I still really enjoyed it. Rob can just sprinkle some Mrs. Dash on it or douse it in barbeque sauce and he'll be fine. And once again, Caesar salad = love.

I spent Wednesday night baking baking baking, since I am on a secret mission to convert the world to the Kind Life and I figure there's no better way to start than with cookies. Our school had an Open House on Thursday 5.0 and I brought Oatmeal Cookies (p. 186) for the kids helping in my areas...drama and cheerleading. And I got this recipe down.

I like to undercook them to keep them chewy, I use almonds instead of walnuts, I use dates and raisins instead of dried plums, and I like to re-shape them right out of the oven by pushing the edges of each cookie together to make it more round so the edges don't get crispy. I also made a batch this time with vegan chocolate chips and they were inhaled by the kids as soon as I put them out . These cookies are definitely winners. The maple sugar gets a little pricey when you're making large batches to feed hungry high schoolers, but it is definitely worth it. So crazy delicious.

On Friday 5.0 Rob and I ate at our first vegetarian restaurant since starting the vegan experiment...The Foundation. Quirky and affordable and very delicious...and the chairs were straight from Babcia's kitchen in the 60's. I had a veggie curry dish and Rob had the Foundation Burger (with a side of the most amazing rice pudding) and a salad with this amazing mango drizzle. I told him to make sure his choices were vegan, as we were in a vegan-friendly restaurant so we could take advantage of more creative vegan options, but he didn't bother asking them to hold the cheese on the salad, so goat cheese it was. He couldn't finish it all and wanted to focus on his burger, so I ended up helping out with the salad in spite of the cheese.

Here's the weird thing. I love goat cheese. I should have been secretly happy that I was being "forced" to cheat and eat the goat cheese so we didn't waste Rob's salad, which would have been a greater tragedy than my dabbling in dairy. And I was secretly happy at first. I mean, I rolled my eyes and sighed when I "reluctantly" reached over to drag the salad my way, but inside I was like, "YESSSS!!! CHEESE!!!!" But my inner jubilation was shortlived. The cheese left this pasty, ferment-y, mlechy aftertaste in my mouth that I found was getting in the way of the salad itself. I used to LOVE that pasty ferment-y, mlechy aftertaste! But now it was just annoying and unnecessary, and I found myself picking around the cheese more and more. Was my palette evolving, moving away from considering dairy as something pleasant? Kind of like society's evolution away from mullets and America's sweetheart Lindsay Lohan?

So it would appear.

There were lots more things on the menu here I wanted to try, so we will be back to The Foundation. I think I would enjoy this place more during a summer afternoon though, as it was not particularly cozy inside...kinda chilly & drafty, actually, and it has a more casual summer lunch vibe to it.

Finished up Weekend 5.0 with veggie tacos at Me & Julio's for M's birthday, poutine at Karmavore (more to come on this AMAZING vegan so so happy it exists) and Whole Foods buffet dinner.

And I was thrilled to come home and see that the amazingly talented, beautiful Natalie Portman won Best Actress :)

Now if that's not incentive enough to go vegan, I don't know what is.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Purging the Meat

I did have a more clever title in mind (ok..."Beating the Meat" really isn't that clever), but then I thought that might be a tad misleading and attract traffic from people obviously looking for another kind of blog. Anyhoo...

This week I figured it was finally safe to begin the process of emptying my freezer of meat.

This stuff was taking up valuable freezer space, and I had discovered after almost a month of Kind Diet-ing that a future without meat in my life wasn't just doable; it was incredibly appealing.

After my Petunia Piglet epiphany last week I've become comfortable with a vegetarian label; I started out intent on avoiding labels and expectations, but I'm definitely ready to tattoo VEGETARIAN across my forehead now. Vegan...maybe someday. I'll just cross out the ETARI when that time comes.


We still had a lot of meat in the house, though, and we weren't interested in eating it. We weren't even interested in a "last hurrah" steak or lamb or bison or salmon or reindeer or ptarmigan or chipmunk dinner or anything. But we did have one family member who we knew would definitely be willing to take on the task of consuming a whole crapload of beef tenderloin.

My handsome mister :)

Galahad was certainly willing to take one for the team. I proceeded to fry up some chopped tenderloin pieces I had frozen for stirfries. Considering this was my first time cooking with meat in almost a month, I have no profound or particularly insightful observations to make other than cow flesh sizzling in its own bloody juices just doesn't thrill me like it used to. And believe me, it used to. Not too long ago either.

Rob the husband was even less impressed. He walked into the kitchen and said, "I don't like that smell. Smells like death." A bit harsh, but he was never a big fan of meat to begin with.

But Galahad was thrilled.

I also boiled up some of the meat to mix in with his dinner over the next couple of days, so he will definitely be a happy happy lad. And yes, the possibility of transitioning our pets to a vegan diet is in the back of my mind, but for now that's a bit much to tackle.

I'm really happy that the meat in the freezer is on its way out, and will be put to good use and appreciated by my exceptionally handsome boy.

The Haagen Dazs, on the other hand, I might just have to tackle myself.

Oh darn, oh darn.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

An *Almost* Vegan Retreat Weekend

I didn't cook at all this weekend.

Our annual school drama retreat meant a weekend away from home supervising delightful high schoolers, at the mercy of restaurants and camp cafeterias. It's really easy to eat kind at home when I'm controlling what comes into my kitchen, but a bit more challenging out in the real world.

Friday 4.0 was spent out and about picking out costumes with the cast of our school play and watching Theatresports on Granville Island. I scored an awesome Mexican lunch at Lonsdale Quay, just ordering a vegetarian platter minus the sour cream.

Colourful and fresh and something I probably would have chosen even before the vegan experiment. Except then I wasn't thinking about protein, so I would have given my beans to Rob the husband. I've never been a huge fan of mushy beans, and now I'm not sure why...these were really good, especially with the salsa.  I may have to re-evaluate my position on beans.

Dinner (with 17 students) was at Cats Social House. Not too much needed to be adjusted for my meal...edamame beans (which I've always loved) and a cowgirl salad minus the feta. I also scored some communal yam fries. A decent vegan attempt, but after eating out now at a few places that aren't specifically veggie, Rob and I are really looking forward to trying out some vegetarian places that will have more creative options for us. 

Our drama group had an overnight retreat booked at Loon Lake in Maple Ridge from Saturday to Sunday. When I sent out our meal requests to the retreat lodge a few weeks ago, I didn't bother requesting vegan meals, even though the cafeteria staff accommodated that option. I wasn't sure I'd still be doing this, and I didn't want any hassle, so I just didn't bother with it. It turned out ok because I just ended up working my way around the animal stuff. 

During lunch on Saturday 4.0 I avoided the hamburgers and just had fries and veggies. Thank God fries are vegan. Not the healthiest thing to eat of course, but always tasty, always satisfying, and always convenient and available in a bind. Love fries. Love love love fries.

Dinner was a bit trickier...lasagna (with meat & cheese), Caesar salad (hello dairy), and garlic bread (buttered, of course). The lasagna was an especially cocky bastard, flaunting his meaty, cheesy goodness for all to see. No shame. I shot the lasagna a few longing glances, but ultimately decided he just wasn't worth it. Luckily, I brought along my barley casserole from home, so the cook was kind enough to heat that up for me. She was super sweet and let me know that they would have been happy to accommodate vegan options if I had just indicated that on the meal request sheet I sent in for our group a few weeks ago. But of course, at that time I didn't really know if Motivation would still be hanging out with me, so I didn't bother. It all worked out, though, since the barley is excellent as leftovers, and I couldn't even finish what I brought.

I also planned ahead for breakfast on Sunday 4.0 by bringing some individual tetra packs of rice milk. While the rest of the group was enjoying pancakes and sausage (I NEED to find an amazing vegan pancake recipe), I had some corn flakes with my Rice Dream. I also grabbed a piece of raisin toast, but I didn't realize until half way through eating it that the bottom of it had been buttered. Oops.

Lunch for the group was chicken burgers, fries and Greek salad (too much feta to pick around *sad face*). Once again I had fries and veggies. The Greek salad was popular, and if I really wanted some I would have had a bit, but Motivation had decided to tag along on the retreat and kept me from going nuts.

So other than the buttered raisin toast episode, it was a successful vegan eating weekend away from home to wrap up the fourth week of my kinder lifestyle experiment.

To do this evening:
1. Ignore the housework and marking that was neglected this weekend while I was away.
2. Don't ignore the cats' shitterbox that was neglected this weekend while I was away (with four cats that thing really should be cleaned every eleven minutes...I better wrap this up and get on that).
3. Make a meal plan for Week the Fifth.

And now, to officially wrap up the fourth week of this vegan thing, I present for your viewing pleasure, Natalie Portman's face:

That is all.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Very Vegan Birthday!

One would never guess it by looking at her, but my mom exited her 50's on February 18th...amazing genes and ne'er a nip or a tuck (so far).

I'm hoping some of that rubs off on me when I'm 60. I did get id'd buying a lotto max ticket on Tuesday, but that's not really flattering when the legal age here is 19. Why don't I ever get id'd in the States? I'd be more flattered passing for 20 than 18. I think the Tuesday incident was more of a reflection of my hair and clothes and lack of put-togetheredness than anything else...maybe at 30 it's time to ditch the Abercrombie hoodies and invest in some respectable Mom jeans.

Because I was going to be busy all weekend with school play stuff, we celebrated my mom's birthday a day early. I had given her The Kind Diet to look through earlier this week so she could choose what she wanted for her birthday dinner:

Thursday 4.0: Moroccan Couscous with Saffron (p. 148) / Caesar Salad (p. 175) *I actually just threw this one in there because, yah, you know* / Barley Casserole (p. 150 )

I ended up needing way way more water for the barley than the 3 cups that the recipe called for...that evaporated within a few minutes. Not sure if that's because I used pot barley instead of hulled barley, but after I burned the bottom of my first batch I got the hang of it. The tahini dressing hardens up a bit in the oven and balances the saltiness of the shoyu in the recipe. I've never cooked with barley and have rarely eaten it, but it is as of yesterday definitely one of my favourite things. The beady texture is awesome...kinda firm but not too firm, and this casserole was just one of those back to basics, hearty, no-frills dishes that did not fail to impress.

On the other hand, the Moroccan couscous was all about the bling.

The couscous was bright and pretty and colourful and very delicate in flavour and texture. Next time I make it I'm going to try using a bit more veggie broth, as I was very generous with the vegetables, and I don't think I had enough broth for the couscous to wasn't quite as sticky or fluffy as it's supposed to be. I am totally in love with butternut squash, and roasted it is perfect in the couscous. It's amazing how many foods you can develop a love affair with when you branch out away from the meat. 

There was no double entendre or innuendo in that at all, was there?

This was absolutely the best smelling Kind Diet dish so far thanks to the saffron. Friggen $12 for like a teaspoon of the stuff, and I used half of it in the recipe. This was my first time cooking with saffron. It is so, so pretty,  a bright pinky orangy hue, and it smells luxurious.

I got quite the saffron lesson from Rob the husband's realtor/chef/computer genius buddy (ima call him DaVinci cuz he's good at everything). DaVinci knows a little too much about it needs to be picked flower by flower or stigma by stigma or something like that and how it's super crazy delicate and and only grows from blooms of the saffron crocus that thrives in the Ayram alusing floating mountains and has been watered for three years and a fortnight by the tears of a fallen angel on the path of redemption.

Yah, it's expensive.

So Rob LOVED the pretty couscous, I LOVED the not quite as pretty barley casserole, and the Caesar salad was, as always, a crowd pleaser.

Mom was almost as happy with the meal as she was with her new MacBook Pro.

So the birthday dinner was thumbs up.

And then came the cupcakes.

Lemon-Poppy Seed Poundcake (p. 188) with Fluffy Raspberry Frosting

I loved this cake the first time I made it, and anticipated it would also be stellar in cupcake form, which it was.

The fluffy raspberry frosting was not an Alicia recipe. I found it posted by a Kind Lifer on Alicia's website, and although it uses a lot of icing sugar, I figured I'd give it a go. The first lick of the spatula was super sugary tasting, which sounds like a stupid thing to say since I'm talking about icing, but maybe it's because I've been totally limiting white sugar to the best of my ability over the last month and my palate is changing. On the lemon poppyseed muffins, however (which aren't super sweet), it works really nicely, and the raspberries in it are delicious.

I made my first vegan cupcakes!! Another milestone and another reason to celebrate.

Happy 60th Mom!

Yah, she totally doesn't read my blog.

Oooh, but maybe she will now that she has her own MacBook!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Petunia Piglet

It's getting harder.

People have been asking how long I'm planning to stick with this vegan thing. I've been responding with, "I dunno...until I don't want to do it anymore."

Yesterday I was on a farm sanctuary website that Alicia had featured on her Kind Life page on Valentines Day

These organizations make it really hard to ignore the realities that I am always more comfortable ignoring. Realities that I'm not sure I can really let myself ignore for much longer. 

For a few years already Rob the husband and I have been avoiding dining at any place that serves foie gras, ever since a guy in a duck costume on Robson Street handed us a pamphlet from Liberation BC explaining foie gras production. Piece of advice...don't avoid the guy in a duck costume on Robson Street, despite your gut instinct to do so. Taking and reading that pamphlet was a huge eye opener for me, and as unpleasant as my new awareness was, I was grateful to know that I wouldn't be supporting places that served this cruel, unnecessary dish. 

It was especially hard to find fg-free restaurants on our last trip to Vegas (we thought Japanese would be safe until we discovered foie gras sushi), but it became a fun challenge seeking out incredible restaurants that didn't serve it. We were thrilled to discover that Wolfgang Puck was anti-foie gras, so we enjoyed eating at two of his restaurants. Oddly enough, one of the best things I remember eating is the Warm Wild Mushroom Salad from Spago...vegan except for the shaved easy fix. 

So avoiding foie gras was a no-brainer, and I could feel good about that. But yesterday, taking the time to observe farm sanctuary animals and watching them exhibit affection and personality really made me question some stuff that I had tried justifying and rationalizing for years. And after awwwing over Petunia Piglet I turned to Rob and said that I think I don't really need to eat meat anymore. Like ever. Is that really possible for us? 

And he just shrugged his shoulders and was all, yah, of course, why not? Like it was the most natural thing in the world. 

And just like that it got harder. 

It got harder to see myself going back to eating meat.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Very *sorta* Vegan Valentine's...kinda...

Happy Valentine's Day! I just figured out that you can change the text colour on here, so that's enough of a Valentine gift for me. And it would appear that you can change the background text colour as well. Wow, this day just gets better and better. 

'Twas a rainy Valentine's Day in Vancouver, and I spent it  at a conference downtown. While this wasn't nearly as cool as my last two Valentine's Days (14-02-10 we flew to Sweden and 14-02-09 I was in the Philippines), this Valentine's was going to be just as exciting because I was going to make it my first Vegan Valentine's Day. Who needs the excitement of world travel when you can spend the day avoiding milk chocolate in adorable heart form? 

I am becoming very aware of the prevalence of meat in mainstream eating and how noteworthy it is to some people when others avoid it. Last summer, Rob the husband and I joined my family on an Alaskan cruise. We had dinner in the same dining room, during the same time slot every night, and got to know the wait staff over the course of the week. We were not yet flirting with (or even aware of) the Kind Diet, nor was the idea of veganism or vegetarianism anywhere in the realm of our consideration. But every evening Rob would order the vegetarian entree from the daily menu, to the amusement and disconcertion of our waiter. It became something of a joke, as Rob was the only male at our table and the waiter couldn't fathom why the "man of the house" would always disregard his recommendations and order the "girlie" veggie options. Rob wasn't trying to avoid meat; he was just going with what appealed to him the most, and the waiter couldn't understand how anyone who was NOT a professed vegetarian would willingly choose this

over this point for the layered veggie pate because it isn't staring at me.

Rob had never been much of a meat eater anyway, and certainly wasn't a fan of seafood, so to be able to indulge in creative, unique vegetarian dishes on a nightly basis was exciting for him, but left our waiter scratching his head at the end of the week.

Which brings me to my Valentine's lunch. I had sushi down in the foodcourt of the convention centre (avocado and yam tempura rolls). Nothing out of the ordinary, straight off the menu, no special requests. As I was paying, the cashier asked me if I was vegetarian. It threw me off for a second...I've come to expect the question when making special requests ordering food in the last couple of weeks, but not when grabbing a couple of rolls to go.

I answered, "No. I'm just trying to eat like one for a while," which has pretty much become my standard response when people ask me if I've gone veggie or vegan.

Along with my sushi I also had my first strawberry banana soy based smoothie (pretty and pink and Valentinesy)...and I think I may have another one when I go back for lunch on Convention Day Two. Soy milk in smoothies seems to work just fine for me.

Vegan Lunch = Successful.

Vegan Dinner, on the other hand = Sorta Successful...Kinda...Not Really.

We have some Earls gift cards that need to be used before the end of the month, so Rob met me downtown and we went to Earls for a Valentine's Day dinner. Awwww.

I ordered the pan bread and rocket salad (minus goat cheese coulis & parmesan chips) to start, and Rob ordered the gyoza.

This is where the "not really" part of the successful vegan dinner kicks in.

When he was considering the gyoza, our conversation went something like this:

Me: "Gyoza? What's in it?"
Rob: "Shrimp and veggies."
Me: "Shrimp? Really? Are you sure you want that?"
Rob: *shrugs shoulders* "Yah."
Me: *eyebrows raised* "OK."

Then when the gyoza came and I turned down a bite, Rob finally clued in that shrimp wasn't vegan (and I doubt the sauce they poured over the gyoza was either...or the dough for that matter). The next part of the conversation went something like this:

Rob: "Why did you let me order it?"
Me: "I questioned you on the shrimp!"
Rob: "I thought you meant because I don't like seafood."
Me: "No, I meant because shrimp used to be alive and are therefore definitely not vegan!"
Rob: "You're so loud."
Me: "Shrimp are alive."
Rob: "You're right. You're always right. Here's a five thousand dollar gift card to Anthropologie and a chocolate peanut butter cup. And your dark hair doesn't make you look like Angela Anaconda."


*disclaimer...the above may not be a totally accurate representation of the discussion in question. Some details may have been exaggerated or totally fabricated for dramatic effect. But unless you were at Earls on Hornby between 5:30 and 6:45 pm on Feb. 14, 2011, you wouldn't know that, so never mind*

Dinner (probably with the exception of the noodles themselves...eggs? Dang this is hard!) was animal and dairy free as far as I know. Mediterranean Linguini (minus the parmesan and feta) and Hunan Kung Pao.

And thus concludes my Vegan Valentine's Day endeavor...every bit as exciting and romantic as a trip to Sweden and every bit as inspiring as Elvirus singing K'NAAN.

xoxo to my Valentine. Thanks for being the best furry children parent ever.

And your Abercrombie hoodie smelled really good today. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Week Three cont...Trader Joe's, Asian Mushrooms, and Evil Mangoes

Wednesday 3.0 continues...

Remember my buddy Motivation? Yah, he decided to still stick around in spite of the whole Bake Sale episode, or my BS moment, as he affectionately called it. It probably helped that after school that day we were going across the border to Trader Joe's. Yeayah!

Rob the husband had researched some vegan restaurants in Bellingham, Washington, and settled on Bloom, which had really great reviews and served a lot of raw stuff too. We were definitely looking forward to trying this place and its organic vegan cuisine...

...until we made an unfortunate discovery...

 I mean, come on. I was friggen starving. All I'd eaten this day was a banana (and 2 cupcakes and a brownie, but let's not dwell on insignificant details). Next time we're calling ahead before traveling to an international destination for vegan food. Seriously.

We ended up eating at Panda Express. Bad idea. I found myself actually missing meat, because the whole place smelled like amazing Asian inspired meat dishes, and they did away with the one veggie main on the menu, the tofu with eggplant, or eggplant tofu, or whatever it was. It was GOOD, and vegetarian, and they got rid of it. So I was stuck with chow mein (egg noodles probably...meh), steamed veggies, and veggie spring rolls. Pretty boring, really. Definitely not what I was expecting that afternoon.

The trips to Trader Joe's, Target, and Fred Meyer were successful, but I gotta say that when it comes to selection, Whole Foods reigns supreme. Trader Joe's did have some awesome selection when it came to chips, an excellent price on Earth Balance butter, and good variety in veggie sausage and faux meat items that we hadn't seen at home, so we stocked up on those as well as some other things I would need for the following week's meal plan. Every single thing in our cart was vegan except for one tiny thing I resisted right up until I was at the checkout. I had to run back for it...

Just couldn't leave them behind. I mean, how can one not buy mac & cheese in ball form? I know, I know...processed dairy...more like Nasty foods #'s 4 & 2 in ball form. I hang my head in shame.

Target had the best price on maple syrup, so we stocked up on that.

How wrong is it that we go across the border for maple syrup?

And I couldn't go to Fred Meyer without stocking up on some potential Haggen Dazs substitutes...

Please God let these taste decent. I know they will never be able to live up to Haggen Dazs, and I would never ask for something so grandiose, but please, just let at least ONE of these non-dairy frozen desserts taste decent. Amen.

On Thursday 3.0 work was providing lunch and dinner for the staff. During lunch I had salad and butterless bread and watched those around me feast on cabbage rolls and perogies. I'm Polish. Polish!! And I had to forego the cabbage rolls and perogies! That's just wrong on so many levels. The vegan life is seriously so much easier at home. I swear, I hardly struggle at all in my own environment because the Kind Diet food is so awesome. But when there's all this other stuff right in front of my face, this is when my relationship with Motivation is tested. But he stuck it out with me through this slightly rough lunch, and even suggested that it might actually be pretty easy to make vegan cabbage rolls one day. That is definitely going on the to-do list.

Parent-teacher interviews were that evening, which meant we were at school until 9pm with a dinner break at 5:00. Every year the PT interview staff dinner is from an Asian restaurant, and the food is always amazing. I was worried about what kind of options I would have to choose from, shuddering at my Panda Express experience from the day before, but as it turned out, I had nothing to worry about. One of the newest features was Asian Mushroom with Bok Choi (score!), and there were a couple more veggie options that I assumed were vegan friendly (and even if they weren't, they were close enough). I felt a tiny knife through the heart when I passed over my absolute favourite green beans with ground beef, but the feeling gradually subsided as I filled up on my kinder choices. The Asian mushrooms, by the way, were just insanely is a very good thing this restaurant is about three minutes away from my house.

Friday 3.0 started off as good as it gets. We had a personal professional day, so I didn't have to go into work. I had a relatively productive yet relaxing morning, fuzzy socks on my feet, and a three legged cat lounging in the sink...just ridiculously cute. Unfortunately, I had consumed some dried mangoes on an empty stomach that morning, and by noon they were not sitting well. They continued to not sit well for the entire day, until they finally decided to make their exit shortly into the evening, making me very very thankful for our rather large laundry room sink. Despite feeling instantly better, the idea of food was completely unappealing to me for the rest of the day, so the Lentil Stew I had planned to make would have to wait.

On Saturday 3.0 I was still feeling a little sensitive, so I once again avoided making anything particular for dinner, although later into the evening I got it together enough to make Oatmeal, Walnut, and Dried Plum Cookies (p. 186).

Like the last time I made them, I subbed almonds for the walnuts and dates & raisins for the plums, and they were seriously delicious. So delicious, that Rob had three while they were still cooling. Now that's delicious.

Unlike the last time I made them, I didn't drop them on the bottom of the oven. Yessss.

And that brings us to Sunday 3.0: I FINALLY got to make the Lentil Stew (p. 171) I had been planning all weekend.

Hearty, healthy, and simple, just like Alicia says. I really loved the pan fried bread croutons in the stew. I grew up eating bread in my soup, but I never considered baking or frying it up like a crouton. Loved it this way. I used organic veggie bouillon cubes to make the required 5 cups of veggie broth, but I rounded up (using 3 cubes to = 6 cups broth) instead of rounding down (2 cubes to = 4 cups broth), so the stew was a little salty, but still very delicious. This is another meal I look forward to repeating, especially during a chilly rainy day. This stew goes especially well with fuzzy socks.

I also made another attempt at the Thai Red Curry Squash I had at Whole Foods by playing around with some online recipes, but once again it didn't turn out nearly as good as the Whole Foods version. So once again, fail. But not as bad a fail as the first attempt. This one at least wasn't bland.


Oh wow...

I'm caught up to my vegan experiment in real time. FINALLY! It's about freaking time, because this coming week the marking picks up again...always a joy.

Let's hope this is the end of insanely long blog posts.

Holy noodle I need to sleep.

Soooo, let's end what will hopefully be my final insanely long blog post and commemorate my finally catching up to myself in real time, I offer for your viewing pleasure (or more likely my viewing pleasure, because once again I doubt that anyone will make it to the end of this post) Velvet Wesley Crusher With a Moustache, because he is awesome like that, and because he recently tweeted about making Baja street tacos with gardein, which makes him even more awesome like that.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Week Three: The First Big Cave

I caved during Week Three. Oh yah, I caved. I totally saw it coming too. It was impossible not to see it coming. Did I do anything to brace myself? No. This was more than settling for the pasta with pesto cream sauce at a restaurant with practically non-existent vegan-friendly options. This was a willful, conscious decision to say "screw these kinder and healthier choices...temporarily."

Yes, I caved. And it was delicious.

The week started off swell. Monday 3.0 was a Leftovers! day for me while Rob the husband cheered on the Canucks. He even took the time to send me pics of his Rogers Arena veggie burger...

How adorable is that? Adorable or whipped. Or both.

Tuesday 3.0: Scarlett Roasted Vegetables (p. 267) / Scrambled Tofu (p. 283)

This veggie dish was probably one of the prettiest meals we've had thus far thanks to the beets colouring the rest of the veggies during roasting.

I subbed in dates for dried apricots, which made the dish really sweet, and I was surprised at how much flavour it had considering it was really only seasoned with lemon. I've never been the biggest onion fan, and although I've been more open to them in the last couple of months, the onions in the dish combined with the sweetness of the dates flavouring the other veggies did not appeal to me at all. Rob, on the other hand, really loved it, because he digs that sweet onion flavour that I can't stand. This is definitely something I'd consider making for a holiday dinner get together even though I personally don't really dig it, because I can see it being something most people (who aren't onion-haters like me) would enjoy. And it's pretty to look at.

Good thing I also made the Scrambled Tofu, because otherwise I wouldn't have been eating much on this evening.

This is one of those dishes, like the Clean, Mean Burritos, where you can take a lot of liberties and use up whatever veggies are in your fridge (or your Fridgesmart). I used mushrooms, napa cabbage, snap peas, and spinach. With this dish, if you try really hard, you can imagine you're eating really rubbery scrambled eggs (you know, for those who miss having scrambled eggs in the morning). Or you can just appreciate and enjoy the tofu scramble for what it is. This would work well for any time of day, and because it's so simple and versatile, I can for sure see myself repeating this one on a regular basis.

So Monday 3.0 and Tuesday 3.0 got the week off to a pretty good start. But then came Wednesday 3.0.

Two words.

Bake Sale.

Not just any bake sale. A Valentines themed bake sale organized by the cheerleading team for which I am the teacher sponsor. Which means that all the goodies get stored in my classroom first thing in the morning. Which makes my room smell like icing when I walk in. Which I do not get desensitized to throughout the morning. Rather, I stare longingly at all the dairy and white sugar (Nasty foods to avoid  #'s 2 and 3 respectively) adorning the back ledge of my classroom while making sure other students don't try to sneak any samples.

Then it gets better.

Because some cheerleaders are in my morning class, they sell a cupcake to a student, who then proceeds to pull it apart into two pieces before eating, revealing its identity as a MARBLED RED VELVET CUPCAKE.

I still don't cave. I spend the morning thinking of that cupcake, and the way the icing pulled apart like a hundred little fluffy, soft, delicious, sugary angel hands reaching out towards each other.

At lunch I wander between the school foyer and cafeteria, running change between the two selling stations and making sure all is going swell. And then I think that because this bake sale is for a good cause, it would be a very good idea indeed to just give them $20, buy a platter of stuff, and send it to work with Rob the next day. Realtors love cupcakes after all.

So I give them $20 and load up a platter of sugary, dairy-laden awesomeness.

And then it happens. I cave and eat 2 cupcakes and a brownie. 2 sugary, dairy-laden cupcakes and a sugary, dairy-laden brownie.

I knew all along I was going to. Was I disappointed in myself? Not really. Low expectations = minimal guilt after all. No guilt, actually. I was still meat free (Nasty food #1) for two weeks at this point, and I was still miles ahead of where I was a month earlier in terms of making healthier and kinder diet choices.

The rest of the bake sale items did in fact make it through the night at our house untouched, and arrived safely the next day at Rob's office, where they were consumed by 9:43 am.

So yah, caving for a good cause (which, by the way, is a trip to a cheer competition in Anaheim) isn't all bad. I'll just keep telling myself that.

Hopefully I'll still feel this positive next month during the Cheerleading St. Patrick's Day Bake Sale, when I know I'll cave again. Crossing my fingers that they'll have the marbled red velvet cupcakes...those sold out before I caved this time around.

Holy Crap there's a Week Two

It became apparent pretty early during my first week of flirting with veganism that this might actually go beyond a one week fling. The original intention was to make healthier and kinder lifestyle choices, and since I was still feeling motivated to continue making those choices after a week, I figured, why not keep going? Why not indeed.

I decided to more specifically set out the criteria. What exactly was "healthier and kinder" going to mean? The first week had been more about trying out Alicia Silverstone's Kind Diet recipes to see if they were something I could get on board with. And they totally were (yay!), which paved the way for the next logical step...avoiding what Alicia calls the "Nasty" foods:
1. Meat
2. Dairy
3. White sugar
4. Processed food

This had been in the back of my mind during Week One, and for the most part I avoided these foods more than I ever had in the past. But that was only supposed to be for a week. Was this going to be doable long term?

Of course it was. Why? Because I still got to set the standards nice and low. Pretty much anything I did was going to be an improvement compared to the way I had been doing it, and the first week had been pretty fun, so there was no reason why I couldn't just continue the experiment with no timelines. It helped that Oprah aired her 1-week vegan experience show right after I finished my first week and introduced me to the term veganish...not quite as memorable as when she coined the term vajayjay, but a noteworthy moment nonetheless.

My buddy Motivation really liked the vegan Oprah episode and seemed to enjoy when I would post pics of my Kind Diet recipe attempts on facebook and get to chat about good food with friends. He also liked it when Rob the husband would take food to the office to share and when my bff (who initiated this whole thing by buying me the cookbook) gave the peanut butter cups the official thumbs up. Motivation and I had been more rock solid than ever before, and were definitely eager to jump into Week Two...

Monday 2.0: Clean, Mean Burritos *with some alterations* (p. 216) / Tahini Dressing (p. 263) on Steamed Kale

Alicia's burrito recipe allows for some improvisation, so we altered the recipe a lot, using Yves Veggie Ground Round instead of beans and whatever veggies we had in the Fridgesmart. We were also able to use the tortillas and some of the tofu cream from the mushroom pizzas we'd made a couple of days before.

This was my first time eating kale, and while it wasn't my favourite steamed green right off the bat, it demonstrated some potential with Alicia's tahini dressing, and I might make it again in the future (once I've exhausted every other steamed green there is to try). The first time I tried the tahini dressing was on arugula, which wasn't the greatest...much better on warm kale. It sort of reminded me of a Thai peanut sauce, which I wouldn't normally associate with steamed greens or salad, but in this case it worked.

Tuesday 2.0: Sweet Potato Lentil Stew (p. 166) / Sicilian Collard Greens (p. 176) / Cornbread (p. 163)

This. Was. My. Absolute. FAVOURITE. Vegan. Meal. Thus. Far.

This was soooooo delicious. Seriously, just, wow. It all came together so perfectly too. I started with the stew, which Alicia recommended serving with some brown rice, the collard greens, and cornbread. I followed her meal plan and it all worked together brilliantly. Though I've eaten sweet potatoes before, it was my first time cooking with them, and they were perfect... the stew was seriously amazing.

This was also my first experience with collard greens, and it will definitely not be the last. This is a steamed green I can get on board with, and I love that it's so healthy. We subbed in pumpkin seeds and shoyu in place of pine nuts and balsamic vinegar to make it more superhero (as per Alicia's suggestions). Because this was the first time I'd ever eaten collard greens I couldn't really say how they normally would go over, but this particular recipe was really flavourful...kinda sweet and garlicky at the same time (weird, I know...but it totally works) and the pumpkin seeds and raisins were a wonderful accent.

And then came the cornbread.

There are three Kind Diet recipes so far that have gotten me ridiculously excited...Peanut Butter Cups, Caesar Salad, and now, Cornbread.

This cornbread is INSANE. I was pretty skeptical preparing it, as the batter is really runny, it makes a swishy sound when you pour it because of the cornmeal, and I was questioning how it was going to turn into something edible. But much to my surprise, the batter rose and turned into muffins, and holy crap were they ever good...kinda crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, sweet flavour, and stupid easy to make. Rob was instantly hooked...we previewed a couple before dinner with some Earth Balance Butter and could have easily eaten the whole batch.

But we made sure to leave some for dinner, which was, I repeat, my absolute favourite vegan meal thus far.

Wendesday 2.0: Leftovers! With Radicchio, Radish, and Fennel Pressed Salad (p. 256) / Creamy Sweet  *Butternut* Squash Soup (p. 253)

Lots of leftovers made for an easy dinner on this night...veggie ground round from Monday's burritos, Sweet Potato Lentil Stew, and rice.

I also tried out the pressed salad, which Rob was not super impressed with.

It's very lightly seasoned with only salt and the idea was to "sweat" the veggies until they sort of resembled coleslaw. It was all right, and was a nice, crunchy veggie compliment to our leftovers, but not something that I'm excited enough about to repeat again.

I also made a second attempt at the soup, this time using butternut squash instead of kabocha, and I did like it was sweeter, and with the nutmeg it hit all the right notes.

 One of my favourite soups is Wolfgang Puck's Organic Butternut Squash, and while I may still indulge in his more caloric non-vegan option once in a while, I'm happy to have found a very, very easy way to have freshly prepared, vegan butternut squash soup on a more frequent basis.

Thursday 2.0: Warm Potato, Soybean, and Cucumber Salad (p. 178) 

One of my fave dishes EVER is Earl's warm potato salad...lots of cream and bacon and warm potato salad-y goodness. Does this vegan version live up to Earls? Not yet (my palate is still a flirting work in progress), but it is VERY VERY good.

Just like the Caesar Salad, I was skeptical putting the dressing ingredients together...they just didn't seem like they were going to result in something that tasted good. And the ume vinegar gave the dressing a pink colour that (while it was pretty on bok choi) didn't really make the dressing look any more appetizing. But, just as I had done before, I put some faith in Alicia, suspended disbelief, and was again very pleasantly surprised.

The dressing was delicious on the potatoes, and the edamame and cucumber gave awesome texture and variety to the salad. Throw in some leftover butternut squash soup and all is right in the world.

I actually had some unexpected and very non-vegan guests over that night, so I tested out the salad on them...and go figure, they liked it. Or, at the very least pretended to like it...but then again, tact and politeness isn't really their forte, so maybe they did genuinely like it, because they would never pass up an opportunity to make fun of me or this whole vegan experiment. 42 and cd also helped me out by eating some of my ice cream...oh Haagen Dazs...I believe I shall miss you most of all...

Friday 2.0: Caesar Salad revisited (p. 175) / Mushroom Caps with Spinach and Roasted Red Pepper Hummus (Sarah's recipe!)

When I started posting pics of my Kind Diet attempts on facebook, a former student and fellow MT'09er let me know that she had been vegan for 3 months, was LOVING it and was seeing some awesome results. She also told me that I needed to try spinach and hummus mushroom caps, so I offered to swap recipes with her...mushroom caps for Alicia's Caesar Salad. These mushroom caps were delicious (crazy garlicky...not good to take for lunch the day of parent-teacher interviews...or are they?) and made an excellent, light meal.

Here's her mushroom cap recipe, copied from my FB messaging :)

Mushroom Caps

6 White mushrooms - capped off
1/4 cup Fresh chopped Spinach 
3/4 cup - 1 cup Red Pepper Hummus (approximate)
Montreal Steak Spice

1. De-cap the mushrooms and lightly layer the bottom of the inside with chopped spinach. (I did this to help absorb the moisture from the humus to keep the mushrooms from getting soggy)

2. Stuff the mushrooms with red pepper humus (I like mine about 1/2" topped off so that the humus gets a little crispy)

3. Sprinkle Montreal Steak Seasoning Spice on top

4. Bake in oven on foiled baking sheet for 12-15 minutes(?) @ 400. 
(I don't remember how long I cooked them for.. You should check on them at 10 minutes.. the mushrooms should be a little softer and darker) I broiled mine for the last 2-3 minutes to make the Humus a little crispy)

Some people cook their caps for 15 minutes at 425.. I find they're likely to get burned.. Cook them how you like them!

This was my second attempt at this Caesar Salad, and it officially solidified its place in my heart...I just subbed in some vegenaise for some of the dijon mustard which I had found to be just a tad overwhelming the first time I made it, and I was hooked. New Caesar Salad for life. For this, Alicia Silverstone, I am forever grateful, and will honor you with a tattoo of your name encircling a vegan Caesar Salad above the African Daisy on my left ankle.

Know what else I'm forever grateful for? Desserts that kick ass. Such as this Lemon-Poppy Seed Poundcake (p. 188).

The cake itself is stellar on its own, but there are two glaze options, and for me it was the Lemon Maple Glaze that really busted out some super tangy awesomeness on a whole new level. I made the mistake of pouring it over the entire cake, when I'm pretty sure you're only supposed to pour it over a slice when you serve it. To prevent it from getting too soggy (which would have been tragic) Rob and I proceeded to eat the entire thing in 24 hours. I know, I know, but it was for the greater good. It surprised me how simple the glaze was to's nothing more than lemon juice, maple syrup, and kuzu (Japanese arrowroot...I think it works as a thickening agent), but holy crap is it ever good.

This post has just been littered with Holy Craps, I'm noticing. I suppose I should use more variety in my choice of interjections, but I guess using Holy Crap in the title kinda paves the way for subsequent Holy Craps to just sneak into the post. Holy Crap indeed.

Let's wrap this up then, shall we?

Saturday 2.0 was dinner out at Washington Avenue Grill with friends...the appy was easy to make vegan: Mesclun Wild Mixed Greens minus the blue cheese (which smells like vomit and feet anyway...I definitely won't be missing blue cheese). The entree, not so easy...Pesto Chicken Linguini (minus the chicken), but it had a pesto cream sauce which was of course dairy, and the linguini was probably made with eggs. It's a lot easier eating vegan in my own home. But dinner was still thumbs up.

Sunday 2.0 was a Leftover! day. Saturday night's pasta, Caesar Salad, and Rob made veggie dogs. I tried making a Thai curry coconut squash and lentil thing that I found online, but it was bland and boooring. I was trying to replicate the Thai Red Curry Squash I had at Whole Foods the week before, and failed. Crap. No holy this time. Just crap. The recipe search continues.

I also made Oatmeal, Walnut and Dried Plum Cookies (p. 186), but subbed in almonds for walnuts and dates & raisins for the plums. I did something really stupid with the cookies halfway through baking, which resulted in my having to re-shape them after they fell to the bottom of the oven (it'll take too long to explain and this post is already brutally long enough), but I managed to salvage a few and they kicked ass, as do all of the desserts I've tried from this book so far.

Week two...officially summarized. Phew!

That was seriously long. But actually quite therapeutic. Which is good, because I doubt anyone is going to read through it all, so at least I got something out of it *sideways smiley face*