Vegan Week, Days 4 and 5: Living La Vida Loca

Saturday, November 14, 2009

I was a bit worried about Day 4's dinner. After going to great lengths to be creative with meals, I figured it was time to use simple vegan substitutions for an everyday meal.

Tacos, baby. Luscious, meaty, cheesy, crunchy tacos.

My heart fell when I realized these tacos would be "meaty," and "cheezy." But it was time to test the waters of Vegan Week.

Success! Smart Ground Mexican crumbles are pretty darn tasty and I'm not sure I'll be returning to regular meat for my tacos hereafter. But the real test would be the cheese. Fake cheese product could truly ruin a good taco. Luckily, Veggie Slices stood up to the challenge. it even melts for crying out loud!

Day 5 saw me forgetting my camera. Breakfast was oat bran (seriously, try this stuff.). Lunch was leftover risotto that I topped with fresh spinach (fresh spinach can be put into damn near anything savory and it offers up extra nutrients and fiber), soy yogurt and a Fuji apple. Followed up by a yummy Caramel Apple Spice from Starbucks. I decided those were vegan, so hopefully there aren't any milk derivatives floating around in 'em. Don't tell me if there are. Ignorance = bliss once in a while.

I drank my dinner last night. Don't judge.

Vegan Week, Day 3: This Is What Creams Are Made Of

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What's the best thing to do on a cold, autumn Wednesday night? Fill a bag with fresh produce and head to your friend's house to drink wine, build a fire and read about your astonishingly correct astrological signs while making dinner.

I showed up at Jennifer's door with a bag full of asparagus, onions, celery and cashews (more on that later) and she was just getting started on an amazing BBQ "chik'n" pizza on Trader Joe's whole wheat crust. To go with it, I sauteed and simmered my cold, black little heart out on this amazing Cream of Asparagus soup from Tal Ronnen.

How do you get a cream o-anything in a vegan lifestyle? Cashews, baby. Before you turn up your omnivorous nose, try it. I triple-dog dare ya. (no dogs were harmed in the making of that sentence.

Cream of Asparagus Soup
from A Conscious Cook

3 Tb extra-virgin olive oil
1 large bunch asparagus, ends trimmed,cut into 2-inch pieces
2 stalks celery, choped
1 large onion, chopped
2 quarts vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
1 cup cashew cream*
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups fresh baby spinach

1. Place a large stockpot over medium heat. Sprinkle bottom with a pinch of salt and heat for 1 minute. Add oil and heat for 30 seconds, being careful not to let it smoke.

2. Add asparagus, celeery and onion and saute for 6-10 minutes, until celery is just soft. Add stock and bay leaf, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, and simmer for 30 minutes. Add cashew cream and simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaf, season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Working in batches, pour soup into a food processor and puree. Add spinach to last batch and blend to smooth. Pour soup into large bowl and stir in spinach batch. Ladle into bowls.

*Cashew Cream: put 2 cups of cashews into a bowl and cover with cold water. Refrigerate overnight covered. Drain cashes and rinse under cold water. Place in blender with enough fresh cold water to cover them by an inch. Blend on high for several minutes until very smooth.

Vegan Week, Day 2

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Happy Veterans Day, folks! Hopefully this day finds you not sitting in an office in front of a computer, but rather sitting here, reading I Pray to Gouda. I mean, you don't have anything else to do today, right?

Day 2 of this vegan life showed me a tempting side to life. Case in point:

My lunch at an all-staff meeting: salad, steamed veggies and bread.

The luscious, chocolatey, cream cheese-filled dessert that accompanied the other staff members' lunch.

I did not cave! Instead, I ate a Clif Z-bar, Chocolate Brownie flavor to be exact. These are almost as tasty as the Mojo bars from Clif, and the perfect size if you are searching for a sweet, midday snack. My ability to avoid those little chocolate pieces of heaven at lunch meant I needed to have a great dinner. Enter Tal Ronnen's Lemon Asparagus Risotto from his new vegan cookbook, A Conscious Cook. Stephanie and Ally put aside meat and cheese to imbibe in this vegan dinner. Thanks, girls!

Lemon Asparagus Risotto

from The Conscious Cook

Sea Salt

1 lb asparagus, cut into 1" pieces

ground black pepper

3 Tb olive oil

3 shallots, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups Arborio rice

1 cup plus a splash of dry white wine

6 cups vegetable stock (optional: boil the broth with 3-4 dried porcini mushrooms. This will give it a meatier flavor)

Grated zest of 3 Meyer lemons

Juice of 2 Meyer lemons

1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted.

1. Fill small pot with water. Add 1 tsp salt and bring to a boil. Blanch the asparagus in boiling water for 1 minute, drain and season with salt and pepper.

2. Place large saute pan with steep sides over medium heat. Sprinkle bottom with a pinch of salt and heat for 1 minute. Add pinch of salt and rice and saute for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

3. Add in shallots, onions, lemon juice and wine. Saute until onions are soft.
4. Start adding in the broth, 1 cup at a time. Wait for each cup to be absorbed by the rice prior to adding the next cup. This process will take about 30 minutes (be patient, it's worth it!).
5. Add in lemon zest, a dash of salt and pepper, and top with pine nuts.

Vegan Week, Day 1

Monday, November 9, 2009

Holla! I made it through Day 1, and without a scratch. That doesn't count my raw, blistered palms from asphalt pushups in boot camp. That was a rough hour. Now I'm avoiding homework by watching Tivo'd Desperate Housewives. Don't judge.

Breakfast: Have you ever tried Oat Bran?! It's crazy awesome. If Oat Bran and oatmeal got in a scuffle in the alley behind the gymnasium, Oat Bran would totally kick oatmeal's hiney. And this combo will blow your mind with the additional bonus of tiding you over until lunch.

- Oat bran
- "Melted banana" - try this: microwave a banana for 30 seconds. It slightly caramelizes and stirs right into the Oat Bran.
- Kingslake and Crane Mahalo Granola Mix. Holy amazing. And California-made.
- Dash o'brown sugar. Or maybe 1/4 cup. Whatevs.

Lunch: this documentation is going to give you a pretty good view of my office. Especially since I tend to work through lunch.

- Pita, filled with spinach, mushrooms, snap peas, cilantro-lime hummus and Tofurkey. Hell naw to the Tofurkey. That stuff will not enter mi boca ever again.
- Wholesoy & Co. Yogurt: YES, YES, YES! I think I like this more than milk-based yogurt! It's richer and not as thick. A-ma-zing.

Snack: Nugget brand trail mix and a Starbucks VIA instant coffee. Have you tried VIA yet? It's great. Dissolves more easily. Stronger than usual instant coffees. Rock on.

Pre-boot camp snack: buy these NOW. Clif Mojo bars in Peanut Butter Pretzel.

Dinner: I totally rocked dinner! I went low-key since I'll be doing some heavy-lifting cooking for the next few days.

- Amy's Lowfat Split-pea soup. Ok, so this was the last chance I was giving Amy. I've tried several of the products and I've wanted to vomit in my mouth with each bite. This soup is dee-LI-cious.
- Salad with OrganicGirl lettuce blend (California lovin'! OrganicGirl is in Salinas), mushrooms, snap peas, cucumber and Trader Joe's Meatless Meatballs.
- Sweet potato fries! Cut a sweet potato into 1/2" disks and bake at 450 degrees for 20 minuts on a baking sheet sprayed with veggie spray. Dip in sumpin'.
Today was a good day. I do not yet miss cheese, although I'm dyin' for some half and half. Is it bad I'm already looking forward to tomorrow morning's oat bran? I'm lame.

Welcome to Vegan Week 2009

Look at that veggie and fruit-packed refrigerator! And hummus. And soy mayonnaise. And Tofurkey.

Yep. It's that time again. Time for Faith to ditch anything coming from our animal friends and dive into the exciting world of veganism. If you'll remember last time, this experiment didn't go well. I was a dairy-free mess of a girl and mean (-er than usual). This year promises to go a tiny bit more smoothly due to ample research and participatory friends (who have no clue what they're getting into).

So sit back and enjoy while I hopefully survive while also showing how to enjoy plant-based cuisine in a meat-obsessed world.