Saturday, February 5, 2011

Week one in a (protein-rich) nut shell: Part One

Summing up the first week of this vegan experience might result in an insanely loooong blog post, and I'm still not sure if that's I guess I should break it up or something? Yah, perhaps.

I had never made a meal plan before. I had never really considered it necessary, because that's something that only hyper-organized domestic engineers or supermoms do. I think I always knew that even if I did make a meal plan, it would be too easy to deviate from it at the first sign of inconvenience and succumb to a bowl of popcorn doused with white cheddar seasoning (which has served as dinner on a coupl...several occasions). 

A meal plan for the week was necessary in this case, though, because grocery shopping for random ingredients wouldn't have worked so well. So I got out the purple mini post-its, bookmarked a few of the especially awesome looking Kind Diet recipes, scored a bunch of Visa points at Whole Foods, and proceeded to lose my vegan virginity.

Monday 1.0 - Polenta Casserole with Seitan (p. 223) / Caesar Salad (p. 175)
The polenta casserole looked delicious in the book...

My version did not look quite as firm...

I think I misread the recipe...I used some leftover polenta I had and just a little bit of cornmeal, along with more cauliflower than I think I was supposed to. The result was a mushy and runny (but still quite tasty) casserole. 
This was also my first time eating seitan. This stuff does not look appetizing coming out of the package, but it was very nice in the casserole. I will definitely be repeating this one...and hopefully doing it right the second time around.
Alicia has these little writeups before every recipe, and her commentary on the caesar salad was “This is the greatest Caesar salad on the planet. Period.”
Now, Rob the Husband and I are huge Caesar salad junkies. I grew up on my mom’s amazing homemade dressing, and have found some very decent bottled substitutes for the days I want to be a lazy cook (which is pretty much always). Alicia’s claim that this was the best Caesar salad on the planet period, though encouraging, was not something I expected my non-vegan-slightly-snobbish-when-it-comes-to-Caesar-salad-palate to agree with. I was no more optimistic as I was putting the ingredients into my magic bullet. Almonds? Tahini? Dijon? Seriously? None of these computed with my Caesar expectations. But I suspended disbelief, blended everything together, and had a taste. 

Just, wow.

**side note...the salad is on the right of the pic...on the left is my runny polenta casserole on some wilted spinach...clarification just in case the casserole looks like a giant crouton**

This was good. Very, very good.
The dressing is very tangy, flavourful, and bold. This isn’t just delicious as a vegan option; this is delicious. Period. I didn’t even miss the bacon bits and parmesan, which are staples in my caesar salads. If vegan food was going to be like this, I was seriously starting to think this week wouldn’t be so difficult after all. 
I have also been converted to homemade croutons...I will never buy them again. Making your own is SO EASY and they are SO YUMMY. Rob the Husband was eating the leftover croutons like a snack afterwards. 
The only thing I thought I would try differently next time is maybe halfing the amount of mustard in the dressing and subbing in some vegenaise. Because we eat a LOT of Caesar salad, more as a meal than a side, the mustard becomes a bit strong over the course of the meal. But overall, I’m so thrilled to have found my new caesar salad :) Yay!
And for dessert...

Ahhh peanut butter cups. The reason behind this whole vegan odyssey. If these didn’t deliver it would have been tragic. But they delivered. Oh, did they ever. I mean, peanut butter and chocolate is pretty promising, but non dairy chocolate? I used vegan chocolate chips from Whole Foods’ 365 line, as the carob chips I tried were yucky...chalky and salty. Bleh. These 365 chocolate chips, however, tasted like...chocolate chips. And melted beautifully and poured silkily over the peanut butter and seriously, how is this desert non-dairy?? 
Doesn’t matter. It’s delicious. 
Vegan day 1 = Great Success.

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