Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Got it bad, so baaad, I'm hot for HuHot

This is actually a picture from my buddy Dan's yearly Mongolian BBQ party two years ago. I just wanted to make a plug for HuHot for all of you lazy vegans who don't like to cook and are scoping out new digs to dine.

So, I balked at this adventure for many reasons. There's the whole dress like Genghis thingy that I'm not so fond of, and there's plenty of animal meat. I'm not one of those vegans who is opposed to dining in an omnivorous establishment, I just doubted I'd find anything substantial. I was pretty hungry and it was Mr. J's birthday.

So I consulted the IU Veg web page and put my vegan superpowers to use. I told our server I was vegan and she promptly gave me a food allergy list so I knew what sauces I could use. Then she told me the grill guys would thoroughly clean off a spot on the grill, section it off from all the meat, fish, and cook my own individual stir fry. Pretty cool, huh?

First time up I had tofu, pineapple, broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, and wheat noodles. I chose ginger juice, garlic oil, and Kung Pao, Yow! sauce. So you don't have to go through a bunch of research, here are the vegan sauce options:

  • Samurai Teriyaki
  • Kung Pao, Yow!
  • Not So Sweet n' Sour
  • Feed The Hordes Hoisin

All sauces have allergen information on their respective placards on the bar, if you forget. I was really bummed that many of the sauces contain fish or mollusk stock--so even you vegetarians beware! That stir fry might not even be vegetarian! C'mon, Hu-Hot: how hard is it to make a VEGAN PEANUT sauce?

All in all, I would go again.

Monday, February 27, 2012

All Hail Justin's Nut Butter

Did you ever think you'd be addicted to a blog written by Beavis and Butthead? I giggle every time I think about Justin's nuts and his butter, and cannot stop my mind from producing a bunch of dirty jokes. I also cry a little because it is so incredibly expensive. I don't care how tasty one's nut butter is, I can't spend justify spending that much on something like that.

Well, Mr. J. picked some up on sale for $3 less than regular price and surprised me with it. Wow! After having some on a peanut butter pretzel, I remembered why it is nice to pamper oneself with luxury items. How often do we waste our money on stuff we think will work but doesn't? C'mon, I know you have a thighmaster collecting dust in your basement, and a DIY Botox kit by Ronco hidden in your garage. You bought those things thinking they would be life altering. Three installments of $39.95 and you'll be so much better than you already are. Really?

How often do we invest in ourselves by getting something we love? For me, not often enough because I just feel like it's wasteful or something. Would we hesitate to do this for someone we love? Of course not. I get caught up in being ashamed of being working class and justify not getting myself nice stuff because I should be taking care of other things. Really? Is spending the full price of $9.99 gonna break me if I do it a couple times of year? Nope.

And Justin doesn't put a bunch of trans fats and sugar in his nutty butter either. I mean, his products with honey aren't vegan, but I don't buy those. It's not like I'm buying that other brand that rhymes with rubella that has a bunch of milk fat in it. So, do something nice for yourself and splurge a little. It's honestly okay. You're worth it.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Dinner in a jiffy

One of the statements made in my first Compassionate Eating class is that veganism seemed impossible. I heard the word inconvenient a time or two as well. I just finished week 4 with my students and we talked about "Meet Your Meat."

In Colleen Patrick Goudreau's 30 Day Vegan Challenge she discusses taking back the words meat and milk. After all, vegans don't eat fake food--we eat very real food that is made directly from plants. I challenge you to get the following words OUT of your vocabulary: faux, pseudo, mock, et al. As a vegan, I don't feel I'm mocking anything. I'm embracing a life based on the conscious decision to not consume animals or animal byproducts. So call it fried tofu, bean burgers, and seitan nuggets.

I showed them that 1/4c. vital wheat gluten-(the main ingredient in seitan) has 23g of protein! So when someone asks me, "But where do you get your protein from?" I can first a) point out they ended a sentence with a preposition-(((snicker, I kid))), and b) that I get it from (((demonic voice))) SEITAN! The reverend thought this was funny.

Let's get back to inconvenience. You really need to evaluate what is more convenient, good health and well being or shoveling your face with stuff from a drive-thru? Let's face it, most of us eat this way more than we should. And what could be more inconvenient than food poisoning from tainted meat? I personally think heart attacks are inconvenient. Change perspectives.

The dish featured above is from the Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook: the Cheezy Broccoli n' Rice Casserole. This is such a cinch to throw together, even faster if you cook the rice beforehand in a rice cooker. It's creamy, comforting, cheap, and--oops! No broccoli. I subbed with my favorite, kale. Served it with a potato because I lovey-love-love starch like Ron Burgundy loves scotch.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Fat Tuesday and some vegan soap

I didn't eat these beignets for Mardi Gras, I'll admit it. I thawed the dough from October, fried them, and ate them over the weekend to end my fantastic staycation. The dough freezes really well! I did have Thai today made with Fatty McFat Fat coconut milk and think I accomplished the goal of Fat Tuesday. This week marks my last week working at the gardening store and I'm starting my new job on Monday--I'll definitely have to have some precooked stuff lined up to get back into the routine of working full time.
My friend Adam was in the US from Germany and brought me some vegan soap all the way from Deustchland. I found it odd that the ingredients are in English. The stuff smells amazing. He must know I don't shower enough and was sending me a message to bathe. I'll tell you if they worked or not!
I can't remember what the figure on the left is supposed to be, but it makes me think of something from Greece and is scented like jasmine. The bar on the right is of a German television tower--(right?) with a moon. It also smells good. Don't ask me what mit bambus means, I'm assuming bamboo. I know he explained both to me, but I'm a dolt and forgot what he said. I'm baffled as to why he is friends with me. I'm such a crappy friend, as I rarely write him but anytime he's in IN he makes time to see me. Awww. I have a few friends that I do this to: my pal Jawzie that supported my transition to veganism and is going down that path as well, and I've fallen out of contact with many college and HS buddies since breaking up with Facebook. I could easily write a blog titled, "I'm Your Shitty BFF" but I know that's not really true because I love all my friends and think about them every day. So I guess I'm just a lazy BFF.

What did you eat for Mardi Gras today? For those of you who are religiously observant, what are you giving up for Lent?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Vegan Surprises: Olive Garden Manager Says, "We LOVE vegans!"

Olive Garden--I know, right? You're thinking, Jen puh-lease! Hear me out: one dilemma that happens during a vegan transition is eating with non-vegan family members. They want their meat and dairy, and you want vegetables. It's enough to drive one crazy and deter them from adopting a vegan lifestyle. I'm here to tell you it ain't so.

I'm lucky enough to live in Bloomington, IN where you can go to any chain restaurant, tell them you're vegan, and they know what you're talking about! Please read my response below about my recent experience at our local Olive Garden:

Hi Corporate Office!

We live in a culture where we hear about what we do wrong rather than what we do right. I just wanted to take time to thank Kyle, Brian, and Francesca at the Bloomington location for their deluxe customer service on 2/18. We received a gift certificate to dine at OG and I was hesitant to eat there because I am a vegan, which means I do not consume any meat, dairy, eggs or seafood. I called in advance and was assured by Kyle that I could custom order any menu item and someone would work with me.

My family was able to eat what they wanted and I was able to join them and be a part of a nice Saturday dinner. Kyle's initial comment was "We LOVE vegans!" and that truly showed.

If Olive Garden would consider offering more vegan selections-a roasted veggie and balsamic pasta, a dairy free pesto, or spinach and tofu lasagna without cheese, you wouldn't even have to advertise it as vegan--"allergy free" often denotes the elimination of dairy and eggs. Vegans are a loyal lot and once word gets out, you'll be amazed at the response. Let me know if you have further questions.


Jen Molica, That Pain in the Ass Vegan

So readers, that's how you do it. Ask for what you want and watch the magic happen. Restaurants want business and are always willing to accommodate. I sent this letter to corporate headquarters and am hoping to get a response. Maybe OG will start offering vegan options!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Hot Dog!

So I was craving vegan hot dog nachos, sue me. This was largely inspired by watching many episodes of Chopped and my love for Btown's local eatery, The Naughty Dog. NOTE: if you click on the link, you will see meat.

I love this place because it is a) cheap and b) THEY OFFER A VEGAN CHILI DOG! How awesome is that? Sure, I could make one at home while listening to The Pod and it probably would taste better, but sometimes I'm just too lazy to make lazy food. So there. I got your no porkroll-no-egg-no-cheese right the eff here, baby.

If you're thinking, ugh--that's just gross! Or perhaps you are curious and worried about calorie content, vegan hot dog nachos won't ruin your caloric day you big ol' weirdo, you. If you are obsessed about that sort of thing, I estimate it is around 600 calories, less if you only have one wiener--(hey now, they list a serving as "1 Wiener" so get your mind out of the gutter.) Here's the breakdown:

  • 2 vegan hotdogs @ 50 cal=100
  • 1 serving corn chips (that's 6-7 chips, kids)=130
  • 1/3 c. vegan chili=120
  • 1/4 avocado sliced thin= 70 cal
  • diablo sauce= 120
If you don't care about calories, add more chips or whatever. I personally wanted the chili dogs to dominate the dish, not the chips--I just needed some crispy-crispy if you know what I mean.

diablo sauce ingredients:
1T veganaise
1 t nutritional yeast
1/2 t white miso
Frank's red hot to taste

I can see Ted Allen saying, "Chefs you have one minute left!" as I effortlessly plate this amazing little ditty. Secret basket ingredients are vegan hot dogs, corn chips, miso, and nutritional yeast. Of course, I'm thinking chili. Of course I'm thinking nachos. Duh. Scott Conant is secretly jealous but chooses to diss this dish, and Alex G. proposes to me after eating. Yeah, that's how it would go. Screw that 10 grand.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Restaurant Review: A Taste of India, Bloomington

For Valentine's Day, Mr. J. took me to A Taste of India to eat a taste bud tingling dinner. I haven't wanted to eat much Indian food since going vegan because of the cream or butter used in most of the dishes. I used the ultra handy VegIU guide and felt confident because they assured most veg dishes could be made vegan.

Guess what? I got better than that. There is a cute little V with a leaf by all dishes that are vegan. There were so many to choose from, but we settled on samosas, chili pakora, chana masala, and bombay aloo. Mr. J. ordered his potatoes hot--I'm a heat person and I found them to be almost too spicy!

For the two of us the meal was less than $30 without a tip: that was for two appetizers, two entrees, and no dessert--which was fine because we were stuffed. The service was amazing, and the atmosphere was very romantic. There's a small section to sit on the floor if you so desire, and they have a flat screen television above the bar area that has Bollywood movies playing. I don't know what we were watching, but there was a parade of fabulous dancing led by a guy with a magnificent mullet. My only regret is not having my camera. Shame on me. So you'll have to deal with the picture of a batch of seitan tikka masala I made a couple of years ago. I really need to make that again. That was foodgasm inducing.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Valentine's Wish For You

What do I want for you? The same thing I want for me: supremely tasty food and a fantastic journey learning your own Truth. Everyone wants a box of quality candy, some ferocious loving, and a hand to hold on this special day.
I want to point out that you can't do any dancin' to Barry White without a heart. Going vegan isn't a complicated endeavor--initially it is a challenge for sure, but it is a process in holistic love. You're caring for your body with a plant based diet--and your heart is writing you beautiful poetry! You are taking responsibility for the environment by eating foods sourced from non-animal derived ingredients. Cows, chickens, turkeys, pigs, and fish want to cover you with fat kisses and squishy hugs because your actions spared their lives. Let's not forget how absolutely divine it is to know how your food got to your plate, right?

So--if you want to do something totally sexy for heart, try the following menu for tonight or any day in the future:

You can't go wrong with this appetizer plate.

Spinach Fettucine with Edamame Pesto
Carob PB Cake
OR this if you're a chocolate/carob hater: Celine's mini coffee cakes

Or you can just make the sugar cookies from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar-(shown above.)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Best Kind of Vegan Accident

I love vegan accidents. I'm not talking about finding out a certain snack chip or packaged cookie is vegan-(although that's pretty cool), I'm talking when people get together to do something rad and the meal is vegan. It happens! Here's an example:

I belong to a chalice circle at church, or as my son likes to call it, "Turch." It's a committed group of people who get together twice a month to discuss a subject and have two service projects to complete, one to the church and one to the local community. We all agreed to cook a meal for one of the night shelters in town. Since most shelters are overcrowded, this traveling night shelter is a Godsend to people to get in from the cold, eat a hot meal, and go to bed for a good night's rest.
Y'all know there's nothing more warming than soup! So I made the barley chili from 500 Vegan Recipes as well as the cornbread. One of the other members made a yellow lentil and potato soup. Guess what? All vegan. That's right. Without us even trying we cooked a nice vegan meal for 60 people! We were given a budget and only had to spend half the money allowed because we were so smart about what to serve. So when people tell you veganism is expensive, they're WRONG!
Here I am blending my wet ingredients for the corn bread. My favorite egg replacer in baked goods is the good ol' fashioned flax seed meal. Celine is a big fan of sucanat and she has made me a bonafide convert. I have found it at the local Sahara Mart for .99 a #. For real! Prepackaged 1# containers are usually $5 or more. I added a little molasses and creamed corn to the mix to amp the corn flavor. The recipe is called Skillet Corn Bread, but we made two large cafeteria pans, for a total of 8 batches of cornbread!

Here's a shot of the chili. We had a really good time coming together and doing something we all loved, laughed, shared some cookies-(I made the Butterscotch Pecan Cookies s, and I taught a few people how easy it is to make something vegan.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Funny how dinner time favorites evolve

I long for the day when someone isn't sick in my house. Kids are such adorable petri dishes. I have been playing nurse to a spouse and two children for the past couple of weeks. I fear the next illness that hits us will be zombieism. Then I'll get all freaked out because my family started the zombie apocalypse. Can zombies be vegan? I guess if the human consents, but I don't really recall any humans willingly giving themselves over to a pack of zombies. Laugh if you must, I do think about these things. And zombies are non discriminating. They'll happily nom on animals, and we all know that isn't vegan.

Anyway--when I'm sick, I really like comfort food. But this time I wasn't sick, I just wanted some probiotics. Well, since the P word is all the rage most people think you can only get that stuff from dairy yogurt. WRONG! Probiotics are just positive bacteria that fights the bad stuff and makes your colon have a happy face. You can find probiotics in most fermented or cultured milks.
In comes miso gravy. If you click on the link, you can see that I've been in love with it for a while. Back in the day I wasn't as confident in the kitchen, so I leaned a lot on premade vegan meats. Well tonight is that dish evolved.
Look at those chick-un croquets! Super easy to make: just take your favorite seitan recipe and tear it to bits. Mix it with a vegan buttermilk-(for you newbies, that's 2 caps of apple cider vinegar to 1 c. soy or other non dairy milk), breadcrumbs, and the appropriate spices. You now have something that will debunk the myths that vegan meat is not as good as animal meat. Pssst: it's the flavoring you crave, not the flesh. Animal protein is pretty much a blank slate like seitan or tofu is. You just have to know how to cook it! Buck up, campers--I know you can do it!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Can't discuss Superbowl, I'm too busy eating.

I really don't care about football, but I have a love affair with all the food that comes with big football game parties. I made seitan buffalo wings w/my own answer to ranch meets blue cheese dressing, some sweet potato fries and regular oven fries, celery sticks, and sun dried tomato hummus. Not a bad spread.

What's your favorite tailgatin' party food? I'm quite fond of artichoke spinach dip. Here's a link to an older recipe.

Currently reading 500 Vegan Recipes and The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions. Both are very good, and I'll give you the scoop once I'm done thoroughly reading them.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Product Review: Turtle Island Tempeh

While I will happily make my own vegan lunch meat, I'll never be so vegan that I make my own tofu or tempeh. Just not going to do it. Not that ambitious. I have kids to parent, and crappy t.v. to watch.

Turtle Mountain Foods seasoned tempeh is awesome because there is absolutely no guess work on getting the marinade just right. Unlike other companies that make products with a flavor and fail, TM does it flawlessly. I braised mine in a non-stick skillet and made spring rolls with the tempeh, avocado, celery, and carrot. When I paired that with some coconut curry soup, I had a really nice meal to share with the Mr. Verdict? Hands down, two turntables and a microphone.

So, hey Turtle Mountain Foods: my birthday is on the 13th and you should send me some coupons. Nudge-nudge, wink-wink.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Be My Sweet Potato

I've been at home all week because my spouse is very ill. To keep the house extra quiet, I took the kids out and had them go to child care while I taught my Compassionate Eating class. I brought a camera so everyone could check out the spread, but um--I forgot to take pictures.

We accompanied the rest of the UU congregation with their annual Soul Food Dinner. I thought this would be the PERFECT occasion for my students to practice eating vegan in a non-vegan setting. I made tofu catfish, sweet potato and squash mix, bac-uny greens, mac n' cheese, and smolve pie for dessert.

To our surprise, the cook of the church dinner made a few vegan dishes including black eye peas and a sweet potato dessert! There was a whole tray of the dessert left--guess who got to take that home? Boo-yah. Do people even say that anymore? Anyway, it was really good--very sweet. I am going to freeze a bulk of it and use it to add to cereal, or to make a crumble/crisp on days I don't want to put much effort into dessert. Operation Yank My Sweet Tooth came in without warning--I really thought it was too decadent! I had it this morning for breakfast and had it with some rice and pumpkin seeds.

I thanked Chef Renee for her contribution. I reviewed with my class some tips on getting by in a non vegan setting:

  • Plan ahead: find out what's on the menu and ask if it can be made vegan. If not, bring your own version of the food so you can blend in, or bring a tray of your favorite food so you don't sit in a corner sulking.
  • If you're eating at a mainstream restaurant with relatives or friends, ask the server if they can custom make you a salad, baked potato, and some steamed vegetables. Almost every restaurant has these items. Thank them for their effort and be sure to sing holy praises to the manager. In this situation, I sneak in my own condiments. If you're not comfortable doing that, ask for a simple oil and vinegar dressing.
  • You can always eat before you go out, just an idea.
  • Remember, it's not the _______ you crave per se, it's the flavors and company. Craving cheese? Fat and salt. Bacon? Fat, salt, and liquid smoke. Example: I fried some bacon bitz in canola oil for a nice bacon grease and used it on the kale for dinner. Everyone was impressed.