Saturday, October 31, 2009

Day 31

October 31 marks the one year anniversary of when my boyfriend and I first met, and it is also marks the close of my first month as a vegan.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Day 28

I was feeling pretty darn lazy today so I ordered pizza delivery. Vegan pizza ordered online and delivered to your door seems almost too good to be true.* Pizza Fusion in Santa Monica is almost too good to be true. And their prices vouch for that.

So first of all, it took almost three hours to get my pie. Apparently, they don't deliver from 2-5 and I called at 3pm. They said that I would be the first to go when they resumed deliveries at 5, but given the time of day (rush hour in Venice is a bitch) my food didn't arrive until 5:45pm. That's ok. I knew it was coming. The pizza was tepid. whatevs. I was so hungry by then that I shoved a slice in my mouth before signing the credit card slip.

I ordered a large multigrain "Very Vegan" pizza which comes with crimini mushrooms and whole roasted garlic cloves, marinara and Daiya brand cheese. I actually found Pizza Fusion through the Daiya website which I was introduced to via a Whole Foods vegan quesadilla. I added sundried tomatoes to my pizza and with the delivery charge + tip the whole thing turned out to be about $25.00. Now that's a lot of money to pay for a pizza, but I figured, hey, it's a large, I can easily stretch a large pizza over 3 meals. I usually max out at 2 slices a go, so I even invited my co-workers to partake. Well, there were about 8 slices in this incredibly thin crust pizza and it was a lot smaller than I thought a large would be. In spite of the fact that the dimensions were specified I thought it would be much bigger. I can't really think spatially so maybe this was my fault, but ultimately the smallness of the pizza minus the thinness of the crust equaled me eating half of it in one sitting.

It was really good, but not worth the money. Maybe for a special occasion. If they start selling Daiya in the stores that would be great. This is a remarkable product. But Follow Your Heart cheeze is just as good.

*I realize that ordering cheeseless pizza is also vegan, but to me it's just not pizza without the cheese.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Day 27

Today I went on a field trip of sorts with my co-workers Sarah and Shawna. We motored down to La Jolla in Sarah's Prius to check out some galleries in the area. Before leaving Venice we stopped at the Venice Whole Foods. I got a smoothie. It was amazing. So a good vegan smoothie can be done (not that I doubted it, I just wonder how J's went so awry. See Day 25 for my sad, sad review.)

In La Jolla the necessity of preparation as a vegan became very apparent. Finding a vegan friendly lunch spot without the benefit of yelp was a crapshoot. Finally we ended up at a yuppie proper bistro called George's. What George lacked in vegan friendly options he more than made up for with an amazing ocean front terrace and my lady friends and I sipped on fancy cocktails by the sea. I will say that in spite of the mediocrity of my cobbled together vegan entree (pasta with veggies) our server was very accommodating and didn't seem annoyed at all by the curve ball I threw him. And believe me, I was a difficult patron BEFORE I went vegan so I can imagine how horrific I must be at present.

PS Hi Tara, wish I could have seen you today :(

Monday, October 26, 2009

Day 26

I have discovered silken tofu, and it is good.

Another fun knitting day with Laura and this time she stayed for dinner. Honestly, I love cooking with another person and last night was a great team effort. I planned a Mexican extravaganza inspired by my urge to cook with pattypan squash again (I had a lot of fun with it in the summer and I noticed their numbers were dwindling as the farmer's market bows to the fall). That night we devoured refried beans, chipotle quinoa, and squash with cauliflower & fresh corn in cilantro-basil pesto. But the surprise of the night for me was the cilantro "sour cream." It was AMAZING. The recipe was adapted from Isa Chandra's but I accidentally (shhh) forgot to add the oil and it was still amazing. Honestly, I don't see why it needs oil. Leaving it out is so much healthier anyway. And nobody missed it. So good! I highly recommend trying this recipe.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Day 25

On Sunday I got a smoothie from J's Vegan on Abbot Kinney. I've been so reluctant to talk about J's because I think its great that there is a vegan place walking distance from work and the staff is just as friendly as can be, but it is SO overpriced and the food is really hit & miss. Or just mediocre. My $5 smoothie was miserable. It was so sweet and loose, not like smoothie consistency at all. I felt like an idiot for having paid so much for something that I could have done better at home for a fraction of the price. That and I had the breakfast burrito and it was bland. This is not a yelp review, and I don't think too many people are reading this blog so whatever, I won't feel too bad posting this. But they frustrate me so! Anyway, if you are on AK, and you do go to J's then I would suggesting getting something from the deli case. You can sample anything in the deli case first so you can pick something you really like (and they do have some standouts like their seitan in the peanut sauce.)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Day 24

Saturday after work I raced from Venice to Hollywood (well you can't really race in a city bus, but you know what i mean) in my gigantic fake fur coat (thanks Matt) for Dia de los Muertos at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. As soon as I got off the bus I saw that the sidewalk was packed with street vendors selling bacon wrapped hot dogs (bye bye rat dogs!) and other traditional Mexican food. I was starving and can never resist the allure of the portable kitchen so I found the only vegan thing I could find: a huarache stuffed with beans. I asked if there was lard in it and she said no, but really, how could I know for certain? Anyway it was delicious and spicy and kept me satisfied for a bit. Dia de los Muertos was amazing, I wish I hadn't spent half the time in line for the bathroom. I met up with my friend Ck and her posse and as it turned out, half of the group was veggie and the other half wasn't. I was pretty happy with that ratio. After the event everyone was hungry so we went to Swingers on Beverly. Swingers is a great veggie friendly place, especially in the wee sma. I ordered the veggie wrap which was yummy, but didn't have enough of filling. The sauteed quinoa that came on the side made up for it though. They don't mess around with their grains.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Day 23

I enjoyed the polenta so much last Monday that I decided to do it again Friday night. This time, I used chopped Italian parsley in the polenta and fried it so it was really crispy (so much for being healthy.) I topped the fried polenta cakes with garlic sauteed spinach and a really hearty sauce I made that was sort of like a lentil marinara and a sprinkle of more fresh parsley. My boyfriend loved it, so I guess it was alright!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Day 22

So Le Pain Quotidien in Santa Monica is maybe not the most vegan friendly place in the world, but at 8:30am (with the only other options being McDonalds & S'bucks) their vegan cranberry scone deemed them golden in my book.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Day 21

I'm collecting vegan mac & cheese recipes. My friend Molly sent me this one by Vegan Yum Yum.

And I found this one on the site. The name of the recipe is Who Cares? Vegan Mac & Cheese and it won 2nd place at the SF Food Wars' 2009 Mac Battle Royale with Cheese. This one has a lot of ingredients, and several steps so it will be a project to complete. But I'm willing to make the sacrifice. :-)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Day 20

I went back to Seed today, this time with my mom and my aunt. Though they couldn't stop cracking jokes in Spanish at the idea of veganism, they couldn't deny that their meals were utterly delectable and they finished every last morsel.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Day 19

To make up for the less than mediocre day that was Sunday, Monday I had a day of extra special fun planned. Monday being my only day off for the week I booked both AM and PM engagements at my apartment. In the morning my friend Laura came over for knitting time. Knitting is a pastime that I'd essentially given up after making a handful of scarves in the early to mid-'00s. But as all things sustainable and self-sustaining have caught my attention of late, I decided to pick it up again. Laura's a really talented knitter and a generous friend who offered her guidance and some rad knitting books. Of course, what was knitting without some baked treat to accompany it?! I made banana nut muffins and tea. The muffins were excellent and didn't want for the exclusion of dairy. We also munched on a mock tuna salad that I threw together from a recipe that I'd seen in a blog (sorry, can't remember which.) Ultimately, it wasn't at all like the one in the blog except that it pinched the idea of using mashed chick peas in Veganaise. I couldn't remember the seasonings and improvised with a dash of tamari, salt, Cayenne and black pepper, a sprinkle of nutritional yeast, and chopped basil. We served it on top of some extra peppery wild arugula on rye pumpkin seed crackers.

In the evening, my friend Molly came over. Molly is a super cool vegan baker and we often get together to cook. Usually we try to create meals using only what we have on hand, but Molly introduced me to this delicious looking recipe that merited an extra trip to the market for cauliflower. It was an eggplant rollatini that used a blend of cauliflower and tahini for the "ricotta" filling. The recipe is from the blog GF in the City. We modified the recipe (for the filling the amount of tahini was decreased to about 2 tbsp and we added a teaspoon of miso, plus some slivered, blanched almonds) and served it over a lightly fried, garlicky spinach and basil polenta with lots of homemade marinara. Yum. Yum. Yum.

Day 18

This was a day of disappointments, on all fronts. But given the mandate of this blog I will focus singularly on the culinary violator of the day: 123'z & Chreeze. To the uninitiated, this may not sound like an edible food stuff. It hardly is. It is made by Road's End Organics and I've provided a link so you can review the ingredients.

Perhaps for someone who's been a vegan for a really, really long time this product might resemble the mac & cheese of a distant memory; or, as the product is marketed towards children, it could be suitable for one who is being reared on vegan principles. In that case, it's fine. I hate giving negative reviews, especially when I recognize that this is simply trying to fill a niche for a familiar and common craving. The product was certainly creamy, so texture wise, there was nothing lacking. And I wasn't looking for something that exactly replicated cheese. After all, there are many ways to make and enjoy mac & cheese; it is a dish that is open to various interpretations and I was more than willing to entertain the novelty (for me) of a vegan mac & cheeze that could potentially supplant my craving for its dairy counterpart. And many cheese alternatives I've tried (Follow Your Heart and Daiya brands in particular) are fantastically good at what they do. Alas, the off putting flavors of the 123'z were, in a word, gross.

Anyway, the point of being vegan for me personally does not lie in convenience foods like the 123'z. Sometime in the coming days I will attempt a recipe from scratch and I will let you all know how it goes.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Day 17

Saturday I went to the Santa Monica Organic Farmers' Market, at 3rd & Arizona. This is the same location as the famous and popular Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers' Market, but its not nearly as big. Well, the past couple weeks anyway all the farmers' markets I've been to have shrunk a bit as the summer harvest has waned. I got some beautiful Japanese and Italian eggplants and basil and the best vegan snack I've tried yet: sun-dried strawberries. They're these sweet, chewy gems that tend to have the consistency of a gummy bear. Ahhh! So good! They were expensive though, so I don't know if this is a good habit for me to be picking up.

On my way to work from the farmers' market I decided to stop for lunch at Seed, a vegan macrobiotic restaurant at Windward and Pacific. This was my second time at Seed, but my first as a vegan and I was really excited for a really hearty sandwich. I ordered the southwest burger: a bean and grain patty with guacamole, soy cheese, and some sort of yummy sauce that tied it all together on a wheat bun. Let me say, this was an AMAZING sandwich and completely worth the 9 bucks. The bun was soft, the patty delicately spiced, the "cheese" not fake tasting at all. I was so satisfied after eating just half that I saved the rest for dinner. And ya know what? That second half was even good cold.

While waiting for my food I picked up one of the cookbooks on the counter entitled Love, Eric and sat down to read it at one end of the communal table opposite from a couple of ladies deep in conversation. The book was penned by the owner of Seed, Eric Lechasseur and his wife Sanae Suzuki. Flipping through the pages I came upon a picture of Eric and Sanae. I glanced at the picture, then at the talking at the other end of the table. One of them was definitely Sanae! As I self-consciously ate my food I debated over whether I should approach the women. Their conversation seemed so intimate, but I had a good pretext for interrupting. We’re hoping to organize a lecture series on cooking at the gallery where I work, and I am, of course, pushing the vegan agenda (as well as the slow food agenda, the local food agenda, and the organic food agenda. Hi Sarah! Sarah is our events coordinator.) Anyway, I finally summoned my courage and approached Sanae and her companion. They were both very warm and receptive and didn’t mind being interrupted at all. As it turned out, her lunch mate was Whitney Lauritsen, of the eco vegan gal blog. We talked about my new found veganism and the possibility of Sanae and/or Eric speaking at my gallery! We’ll see what happens, but either way it was a fortuitous encounter, and I’m so happy to have met them both.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Day 16

Have to remind myself that vegan food does not necessarily imply health food. Just downed half a pint of Naked Almond Fudge Coconut Bliss. It's times like this that I feel like, "how will I ever feel hunger again?" Yet it inevitably happens.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Day 15

Trader Joe's Cats Cookies are vegan. I've been eating the shit out of those.

Query for veteran vegans: If a pre-packaged or processed food doesn't explicitly say it is vegan, but has no apparent animal ingredients, do you not stress out about it? What about if it is "processed on equipment shared with dairy, eggs" etc...?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Day 10

Saturday night I made an *amazing* dinner that I shared with my beautiful friends, Maria and Yvette plus, of course, my boyfriend. It was roasted tahini brussels sprouts, grilled eggplant, corn & edamame salad, and the delicious quinoa-chickpea pilaf from Veganomicon with toasted kalamata bread. It was quite a successful meal, everyone was full happy, ebullient with praise and wine. And then more wine, and then beer, and then more beer at the party we went to...

Friday, October 9, 2009

Day 9

Just got the Swell Vegan recipe 'zine in the mail today and I'm so excited to try out the recipes! I love the swell vegan blog. If I knew how to do a blog roll, she would definitely be on it. Unfortunately, I'm as new to blogging as I am to veganism and haven't had the time to "pimp out" my blog. Otherwise it would be covered in glittering unicorns and astrological signs.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Day 8

I have the loveliest co-workers. Today, we dug into my homemade eggplant hummus and they apparently liked it enough to request that I post the recipe on the October Vegan blog. Well I made the dip, but the recipe was just a generic hummus recipe that I added eggplant to. It came out tasting like a cross between hummus and baba ganoush. But in honor of Barbara and Sarah, the recipe is as follows:

Take an eggplant (I used a large globe one, ‘cause that’s what the CSA gave me) and cut it into pieces and baste with olive oil, salt and pepper. I usually season my eggplant with a little extra something so a sprinkle of curry powder would do nicely.
Grill on grill pan. Don’t char it, but do make sure it’s cooked through. You don’t want tough pieces of eggplant mucking up the motor on your $15 Rite Aid blender.

In a blender:
1 can of chickpeas, drained
1 clove of garlic minced
1 cup of tahini
a couple of tablespoons of water
a few vigorous dashes of salt
and a hearty squeeze of a lemon

Process, and pour in a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Process some more and then add in the eggplant chunks and blend until you reach your desired level of smoothness. It comes out THICK. If you want it thinner I would suggest adding water, a little bit at a time.

Enjoy at least once daily slathered on slices of crusty bread topped with those deliciously over-priced marinated fava beans you get from the Greek food stall at the farmers market.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Day 7

Today, I saw a drool inducing recipe on (probably one of my all-time favorite sites) for a saag dish that called for tofu instead of panir. It's so close to being vegan, except that it calls for Greek yogurt to be added at the end. Does anyone have any ideas on how to get that creamy finish without the dairy? Also, what about making this with kale? Thoughts?

Day 6

Today was a long, long day at work and I made it through with leftovers from last night and a sandwich from some eggplant hummus I made a few weeks ago. When I finally came home my boyfriend had a stir-fry straight from the sacred pages of the Veganomicon waiting on the stove for me. God bless that man. (I don’t think he reads my blog, though.)

Day 5

The day that I intentionally violated my veganism.

I really didn’t want to talk about this, but I have personal standards about full disclosure and they have something to do with the fact that I am Queen of TMI-land.

My boyfriend was sick in bed on Monday and when he started to feel better he requested macaroni and cheese. We didn’t have any in the house so I had to make it from scratch. Well, you can’t very well make anything from scratch without testing along the way, so I tasted it as it was cooking: over and over again. I should mention that, historically mac and cheese has been one of my all-time favorite foods. So while I felt guilty, I was also patting myself on the back for making an outstanding mac and cheese from scratch (which I’ve done before, but I use a new recipe/method every time.) Anyway, once I plated his portion I put the rest away so I wouldn’t be tempted into having a bowl myself. All in all I probably scarfed a good 5 or 6 tablespoons, which may be a full portion in itself.

That evening I attempted to redeem myself by making a fully vegan dinner for him and my new roommate (who happens to be a chef) of beet salad with fig dressing, beet quesadilla with tofutti, and almond fig cous cous. It was as delicious as, if not more than, the mac and cheese. And damned healthier too, shoot.

Day 4

So this is the day that I violated my veganism, unintentionally.

It took 2 busses and 2 hours to arrive in Sherman Oaks, and I was still about an hour and a half late for dinner. And I got a ride from Sherman Oaks to Encino, so imagine if I had had to make that last connection?! Anyway, as you might imagine, my hunger was piqued by the time I was greeted at the Ackerman homestead for a lavish table of Sukkot fixins. I had warned in advance that I was coming as a recent vegan and brought my ever-popular raw kale salad as an olive branch of sorts. Emily, whose boyfriend is a vegetarian, made us some really yummy chickpea stew. I ate that, and then helped myself to the other vegetable delights on the table, including a curiously fluffy carrot puree. I asked Em’s mom if it was vegan and she said yes, or at least I think she did… I started eating it and my palate confirmed otherwise: eggs. Yummy, fluffy, too-sweet-but-that’s-ok-cos-I-like sweet-vegetables, carrot puree. But when I asked Dr. Ackerman again she said, Ya, they have eggs. Maybe she was too caught up in the hustle and bustle of hostessing to hear correctly, maybe she thought I was referring to another dish, or maybe I just thought I asked and hadn’t, which is not unlikely. Point being, I ate something with eggs. Which sucks, but I know it’s pointless to beat myself up over it, so there. Sukkot was delicious and awesome and I love being an honorary Jew.

Day 3

So I have to confess that a large part of my interest in veganism stems from my desire to “reduce my carbon footprint” as they say. I try to avoid talking about my reasons because I don’t want to be pigeonholed as a self-righteous fart sniffer. But I’m generally concerned about our environment and I have quite a track record of rampant consumerism to make up for. This led me to the decision to give up my car. I still own it, but now my dad uses it instead of his eight-seater SUV, and I use my feet, my bike, or the bus instead of the Jetta.

Living without a car in LA is not impossible, but it’s a bit of a time vampire. Which is great for catching up on your reading, but not so great when you’ve got to take 3 busses and 2 hours from Venice to have dinner with your BFF in the Val (more on that in my next post.) In this case I was going to West Hollywood, which took only 2 busses and only 1 hour. I would estimate that if I took my car this amount to a 30-minute ride, but who’s counting? I was going to a seminar on Arts PR. It’s what I do.

Again I had the problem of being freely offered a platter of foods that I’d crossed off the edible list. I’m assuming that those muffins weren’t vegan anyway. But all was right in the world because a mere 20-minute walk away was my destiny in food form: lunch at Vegan Glory. Perhaps because I done a good bit of walking already, but more likely because I knew I had carte blanche to order anything that struck my fancy, I went a bit crazy with the amount of food I ate. Crispy “chicken” tacos, green papaya salad, and a young coconut to sip on maybe doesn’t sound like too much, but usually I try to get someone to split an entrée and order water with some lemon (ok, lots of lemon.) Everything was good. Everything was real good. I was a bit annoyed with myself when the bill came, but I’m not planning on hitting up too many restaurants on the Westside sooo….

Day 2

October 2 was a Friday and we had a reception at the gallery where I work. This presented a challenge to me because of the sheer availability of food. Motivated by the pangs of hunger that clamor several hours into my shift, the morsels of crudités that I would (ordinarily) pop into my mouth on instinct were off limits. It’s not as if the Kirkland Signature spinach dip or the strict geometry of cubed Cheddar were irresistible, it was that they were there. As Woody Allen once put it, [some high percent] of success is showing up. Certainly he wasn’t referring to processed dairy food stuffs, but as the Law of Consumption states, serve it on a platter and they will come; or more plainly, the more there is, the more you’ll take. This seems to be understood on some subconscious level by all who mill about the appetizers at these social functions. Who doesn’t love free food?

So for the evening I stuck to the carrots and hummus, which I previously passed over while working to prevent agliotosis. All in all it was an ok night and the best part was coming home to a steaming bowl of cous cous.


I'm posting 5 postings on the past 5 days I've missed. They are as follows.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Busy, no internet

Crazy weekend and my internet at home is unreliable. I need a schedule for this thing. Just in case you were wondering, still vegan. Will be back with a "real update" later today/tonight. Thanks for not judging me for the inevitable procrastination on this blog.


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Vegan, Day 1

For years I was a vegetarian of the Amy’s microwaveable entrée variety.  Meals came from boxes, fresh from the microwave, steaming and sliced free from plastic wrap.  My dietary staples were pasta and .99-cent bean & cheese burritos from Del Taco.  Extra cheese & extra red sauce, please.  For someone who adopted a label with the prefix “veg-“ in the title, there was very little room for actual vegetables in my diet.

So after a 2 year hiatus I've been thinking about my diet again.  In fact, it's consumed me these past months.  As I’ve taken note and delved into debates around organic food, locally grown harvest, slow food, the obesity epidemic, etc., my approach to food as changed.  I’ve drastically reduced my reliance on processed food and placed a heavy emphasis on taking the time to think about what I buy and what I serve to myself and the people I love.  And I’ve discovered that I absolutely love to cook.

More recently, I’ve become obsessed with vegan cooking.  Initially, it was to try to integrate more vegetables into my diet, but I’ve come to see it as this wonderfully innovative and bold cooking style that I want to be a part of my life.  Perusing vegan blogs, I discovered VeganMoFo, and on a whim, just last night in fact, I decided “to hell with it!  I’m going vegan!”

My first day as a vegan was a thoroughly average day for me.  And I’m heartened by this outcome, because it raises the likelihood that I will be able to carry this challenge through the entire month.  I’m the first to admit that, in my personal life, I rarely finish what I start.  So this challenge works for me.  There is a goal, and a set period of time that’s manageable.  And so we’re clear, the challenge is that I will eat a thoroughly vegan diet from October 1-31, dates coinciding with Vegan Mofo (Vegan Month of Food) and I will record my experiences in this blog.

By the time this wraps up perhaps the October Vegan project will morph into the Autumn Vegan, the 2010 Vegan, or even the Perennial Vegan?!  And if not, then maybe this will just be an annual tradition for me.  One month out of the year to set aside my omniverous ways and go vegan.