Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Jimmy John's?!?! No!

You know when your body is craving greasy food? Perhaps after a long night of imbibing? While those nights are now numbered (although I do pour a very hefty glass of wine), I find that the recovery process is much more excruciating than it used to be. Oh thirties…you are just around the corner and I can hear you coming.

In college, Pizza Shuttle was key. My roomie and I would meet in the living room, get out a phone and a checkbook (we used checks to pay rent, utilities, and support our pizza habit), and place the order without having to say more than three words to each other. It was like clockwork; thirty minutes later, the “two-fer” was our magic elixir.

Pizza Shuttle. Lawrence, KS.
Post-vegan, I settled for McDonald’s french fries to set me straight. Let’s be honest, if you want french fries, Mickey D’s is the place to go. They are perfectly crisp with the correct ratio of crunchy outer shell to soft mushy inside. And saltiness? Nailed it. Life was good until I got some terrible news. The fries I had been consuming were not vegetarian! Gasp! They are coated in some kind of meat seasoning. Immediately, dreams were shattered and they were off the list of approved foods.

I hate to say it, but it happened again. I recently became obsessed with Jimmy John’s veggie sandwich (minus the cheese & mayo). As I have mentioned before, I have a tendency to get hooked on things and take them to the extreme. In the past 2 weeks, I have consumed this sandwich an estimated 7-10 times (plus or minus 3). I received a very unfortunate email from Jimmy John’s this afternoon. Now my only option is the “Unwich” – lettuce wrapped in lettuce. What a travesty.  

Friday, August 23, 2013

Restaurant Review (Vegan Perspective): Blue Koi

Blue Koi. 10581 Mission Road. Leawood. KS. 

I wish that every restaurant had a tablet device attached to the table that allowed you to place your order and send the instructions straight back to the chef. I know I’m weird, but I absolutely hate giving waiters special instructions for my meal. I just get awkward. It’s like I don’t want to inconvenience the waiter or the chef. If I could simply type my order and text it back to the kitchen without any human interaction, I’d be in heaven.

In the IT world, I see jobs become obsolete everyday due to technology. It's only a matter of time before we completely eliminate the need for wait staff. I, for one, am totally fine and in complete support of my food being delivered via conveyor belt. 

Becoming vegan has made my interactions with waiters much more frequent, much longer in duration, and much more awkward. I usually spend a good couple of minutes discussing items on the menu before I even place my order. What has dairy in it, what is cooked in butter, can you remove the cheese from that dish or is it already mixed in, is there egg in the batter? And so on.

Hands down, the best restaurant experience I have had on this journey was this week at Blue Koi. Jason and I went with my brother and sister-in-law, professional Blue Koi diners and avid meat eaters. Blue Koi is NOT a vegetarian or a vegan restaurant, it simply caters to all guests no matter their dietary preferences. Many of the items on the menu are vegan (bubble tea is made with non-dairy milk), but my waiter assured me that EVERYTHING on the menu could be easily tweaked to fit my needs.

taro and coconut bubble tea

My sister-in-law and I had never had bubble tea and were anxious to try it. Our waiter recommended a combination of taro and coconut (this was not on the menu) since I told him I wanted something that was not too sweet. It was the perfect combination. I'm still unsure as to how you're supposed to really consume the bubble part - chew them or swallow them whole? I did a little of both, again, slightly awkward, but it was a fun experience.

We ordered the spicy chili pepper wontons as an appetizer per Bro and SIL's request. They typically order the wontons with a meat filling, but were very pleased with the vegan version. Tons of flavor, some heat, and a delicious sauce that we found out you can also buy on its own (I'm not sure if the restaurant officially sells it, or if our waiter was just willing to hook us up under the table).

spicy chili pepper wontons (boiled & vegetarian)

Although I ordered the Ants on a Tree, I ended up eating the tofu with black bean sauce entree. I sampled the Ants on a Tree, which was delicious, but was not in the mood for so many noodles. Confession: When I can't decide which entree I want, I convince Jason to order the other. Then, when both entrees come out, I determine which one looks most appealing and take that one. Jason obviously earns extra gentleman points for putting up with this behavior. Thank goodness he is so easygoing. 

tofu with black bean sauce & rice

Ants on a Tree

Monday, August 19, 2013

Down with Salads!


I've mentioned before that I have never loved salads. I have had a few select noteworthy salads, but generally speaking, they're not my favorite. There's just something about eating a salad that feels, well, really healthy and not very fun. Individually I love the ingredients, but when they are tossed together in a bowl, it just feels like such a chore to get them down. Some days I struggle through, but some days (like today) I flat out refuse.

Sun dried tomato and basil tortilla

When a salad is not an appealing option, a wrap does the trick. I load it up with all of the veggies I would have put in my salad. Instead of salad dressing (which is usually fatty and full of preservatives and other junk), I use protein-packed hummus to add moisture and extra flavor. I assemble my wrap the night before and do a tight “Chipotle roll” in a square of foil. In the morning, I grab the wrap and hit the road. 

Red pepper hummus, kelp noodles, mushrooms, tomato, cucumber, spinach

When I pull the wrap out at lunch time, it's cold, crisp, and oh so delicious.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

10 Minute Dinner

While I have never been a “reader” per se, there is one type of book I can’t get enough of. Cookbooks. I have a (slight) obsession. Becoming vegan was exactly what my cookbook collection needed, the perfect excuse. In just over four months, I have amassed more fabulous recipe books than I am willing to admit. I love reading about the intricate and time-consuming recipes that produce such magnificent fare. There are recipes with pages upon pages of exotic ingredients. Surely a feast fit for a king, or a fancy dinner party.

Let's face it. There are not enough hours in the day, and I rarely make those recipes. Certainly not on a week night. 

Vegan or not, it's important to have a repertoire of quick and easy-to-prepare meals that don't take a laundry list of ingredients. It also helps if those ingredients are not perishable. You mean, store them in my freezer and pantry so I have what's needed on hand at all times? Done. Short cuts are fine with me, and guess what? Tonight's dinner was completed in 10 minutes (plus the amount of time it takes to boil a pot of water).

Step one: Cook your grain.
Trader Joe's has an excellent selection of these little bags of grains - the cook time for each is 10-15 minutes. Definitely doable. Tonight I selected barley. Typically, barley is refined to make barley malt which is used in the production of beer. Trust me, it also tastes delicious in whole form. But have a beer with dinner and you've got double the barley. Did I also mention that barley is full of protein (for all of those omnivores wondering)???
Bring water to boil. Add barley.
Step two: Cook your veg.
Every grocery store I have been to has bags of frozen veggies that can be steamed in the microwave. Any type of veg will do. My personal favorite is broccoli florets. Not be confused with broccoli cuts. Nothing is more irritating than accidentally picking up broccoli cuts.
While barley is boiling, steam veg in microwave.
Step three: Season and eat.
Season with whatever spice combo you have on hand. Combine and enjoy!
Tamari. 21 Seasoning Salute. Crushed Red Pepper Flakes.

Delicious, nutritious, and filling.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

4 Month Check-In

From Cafe Gratitude

Time for a check-in. What started as a 30 day challenge has morphed into a new and extremely satisfying lifestyle. After three months, I began to hit a confident stride. I could easily keep myself from starving, get the nutrients I needed, and put together vegan meals without having to follow recipes or meal plans I got online. I stopped focusing so much on the fact that I was VEGAN (omg), and began simply living as such. When you focus on every breath you take, it is harder to breathe for some reason - same goes for being vegan. Once I stopped obsessing about it, it became easy and a part of me. Now four months in, I feel like I could (and might) do this forever.  

Not to say there aren't days when it is extremely frustrating. Why can't there be more vegan options? Why do I have to ask this waitress a million questions about what is in the food? Why doesn't Target carry tofu or almond milk? Why is Chipotle the only vegan friendly, reasonably priced, quick place to eat? Why can't I get rid of these pesky fruit flies for good (more to come on this later)?!? Luckily, these occurrences are dwarfed by the positivity I have seen and felt from this lifestyle change. I truly do feel that I have gained more than I have given up. 

Cafe Gratitude Dessert

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Berry Patch

Last weekend the weather in the Midwest was unseasonably cool. Our normal triple digits had been replaced by a crisp 72 degrees. As I walked outside in the morning I thought, this must be some sort of summer miracle! A perfect day to go blueberry picking!

We finally made it to the patch after a hilarious 40 minute scenic detour. I take full credit for getting us lost. I opted to guess how we should get there instead of using my phone to determine our route. It's a blessing and a curse that we are both navigationally challenged. While we generally struggle to find our way to new places, the discovery that we are WAY off course is typically met with mutual laughter. I swear, if Jason and I lived in the pre-GPS world, we would never have survived.
The Berry Patch
The picking was decent (not as good as last year), and we managed to walk away with one bucket-full between the two of us. Upon returning home, I baked a blueberry pie - the filling was vegan but the crust was Pillsbury, which is not. I had contemplated a vegan crust, but couldn't find a recipe that called for ingredients I had on hand. Most called for weird types of flour and who knows what else. So if you've got a good/easy vegan pie recipe, let me know. I didn't end up eating the pie, instead I also made a vegan blueberry crumble.

For the Filling: Mix berries with a squeeze of lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and flour.

For the Topping: Mix together oats, brown sugar, flour, vegan butter.

Assemble: Put berry mixture in ramekins.

Continue Assembly: Pour topping over berries.

Bake: 425 degree oven (cooked mine in the toaster oven) for 20 minutes until the filling is bubbling and the top browns.

Presentation: While it's warm, top with your favorite vegan ice cream.