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:
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 better...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 :)
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 make...it'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*