“Whether your goal is to start your own community food swap, or just make delicious treats to share with family and friends, this is the book you need! Part cookbook, part how-to guide, Food Swap features more than 80 recipes for artisanal items that will be coveted at food swaps and adored as gifts, including preserves, baked goods, granolas, cheeses, pestos, roasted nuts, flavored salts, and specialty spices — everything from salted caramel sauce and Meyer lemon curd to green tomato salsa, lavender shortbread, cultured butter, apricot jalapeno jelly, and rum vanilla extract. You’ll also find creative ways to irresistibly package your items, and the book even includes perforated gift tags ready for personalization.”
“Serving up a tale that is part memoir and part cookbook, acclaimed foodie Rob Chirico shares his culinary journey after growing up with an Italian-American mother who was hopeless in the kitchen.
Rob Chirico learned to cook as a defense against his mother’s awful meals. After discover-ing that there was more to real food than canned ravioli and frozen vegetables, he decided to try his hand in the kitchen. His memoir oﬀers recipes, cooking techniques, and tips he has cultivated over decades. He blends his expert experience with an engaging and humorous narrative on growing up with suspect meals.”
From the duo behind New York Times bestseller, Thug Kitchen, comes the next installment of kick-ass recipes with a side of attitude. Thug KitchenParty Grub Guide answers the question that Matt and Michelle have heard most from their fans: How the hell are you supposed to eat healthy when you hang around with a bunch of a**holes who don't care what they put in their pie holes? The answer: You make a bomb-ass plant-based dish from Thug Kitchen. Featuring over 100 recipes to attend or host parties of any kind, Party Grub Guide combines exciting, healthy, vegan food with easy-to-follow directions and damn entertaining commentary. From passed appetizers like Deviled Chickpea Bites to main events like Mexican Lasagna, Thug Kitchen Party Grub Guide is here to make sure you are equipped with dishes to bring the flavor without the side of fat, calories, and guilt. Also included are cocktail recipes, because sometimes these parties need a pick-me-up of the liquid variety.
I love my Thug Kitchen cookbook so I was really excited to see that they had a second cookbook out. I got it from the library first and then bought my own copy. My husband was concerned about this. He rightly pointed out that I am not in fact a “social mother-f*cker”. I told him that I liked to make the recipes for myself and maybe I’d share with him. He went off muttering about me being the exact opposite of what the book was for.
I keep pushing back posting this review because I keep making more recipes from this book that I love!
I’ve made the Butternut Squash Queso-ish Dip. No one is going to actually think this is cheese based but it is a nice creamy sauce that I like to put on pasta along with some salsa. Good way to sneak some extra squash into your diet too!
I’m excited about the Artichoke Dip and the Rosemary Caramel Corn. The dip was slightly disturbing to look at but tasted great, especially mixed with some salsa. The caramel for the caramel corn didn’t melt for me as nicely as it was supposed to but it still tasted pretty good.
The Meatball Subs made with kidney beans and lentils were a hit with the omnivorous husband. Definitely making those again.
The Creamy White Bean sandwich spread is good for a vegan who wants something on a sandwich but can’t have hummus because of food allergy concerns.
Everything I’ve made out of these cookbooks have been great so far. If you have any interest in food made with healthy ingredients even if you aren’t normally eating a vegan diet, you should check these out. The emphasis is on people who don’t cook often so the basics are explained.
Time really is flying. We had a lot of great posts in February.
Our first giveaway was chosen from the links in January and February. The winner of the book SeaSoned for posting a link in January and February (chosen by a random number generator) is Mark at Carstairs Considers for his review of Berried Secrets.
Our next giveaway will be for posts linked up in March and April.
We had 27 posts linked up. If you haven’t checked out all the great reviews (and food inspired by the books) go back and look. You can also find links to all the posts with pinnable images on our Pinterest board – Foodies Read.
We’ll have our first giveaway at the end of February. Every link in January and February will be entered in a drawing to win a copy of this Foodie book.
“Victoria’s Recipe for Marriage
Take two adventurous newlyweds and place them on a floundering yacht where the wife is the chef, and her boss, the captain, is also her husband. Add two inexperienced crewmembers, an anorexic diva and her bully of a husband, a CEO who thinks he’s in charge, a drunken first mate, and a randy wife looking for diversion. Stir with a violent storm and a rapidly flooding engine room. Apply pressure and watch the situation simmer to a boil.
Sprinkled with over 30-mouthwatering recipes and spiced with tales of adventure, SEAsoned is the hilarious look at a yacht chef’s first year working for her husband while they cruise from the Bahamas to Italy, France, Greece and Spain, trying to stay afloat.”
I can’t wait to see what you are all reading and creating this month.
Do you love reading books about food? Do you want to find more recommendations of books to read and to sing the praises of books that you’ve loved?
You’re in the right place. Starting in January 2016, I’ll be taking over Foodie Reads.
We will still have a challenge levels and for those of us who don’t like to plan that much there will be an a la carte option.
Want to challenge yourself? Pick a level below.
Short-Order Cook: 1 to 3 books
Pastry Chef: 4 to 8 books
Sous-Chef: 9 to 13 books
Chef de Cuisine: 14 to 18
Cordon-Bleu Chef: More than 19
Don’t like to plan? Choose the a la carte option and let us know when you read a book about food.
What counts as a food book? Any genre – fiction, nonfiction, cookbooks, etc. If food is a major part of the plot then it counts!
Each month I’ll have a new page for book reviews that you post. You can find the page for the month linked here and on the blog’s right sidebar. Each month will feature some posts from the last month. Posts will be pinned to Pinterest and publicized on Twitter to get the word out. Along the way there may be giveaways for participants.
The hardest part of trying to be vegan for me hasn’t been cheese. It has been caramel. I love chocolate and caramel together. This vegan caramel sauce is amazing. It is easier to make than date based caramel since I don’t have a super duper blender to make that smooth and it is less expensive. Dates cost a lot. The original recipe she posts for the caramel sauce isn’t vegan. It used heavy cream. The notes on the almond butter cups though explain making it with the thick part of coconut milk. Do that. It is incredible.
The caramel recipe makes a lot so you can find good uses for it. So far I’ve used it as glue to attach chocolate chips to popcorn!
The cups are fussy to make but not as hard as I thought. Just use a spoon to put a little melted chocolate in a mini cupcake liner and then spread some on the sides of the liner with the back of the spoon. I used melted dark chocolate chips. Then put in a small amount of a nut butter – powdered sugar mixture and pour some caramel sauce over it. Top with more chocolate to seal it all and freeze.
Clean up ended up being tasty too. I had an improvised double broiler with chocolate all over the sides and some left over filling. I poured the filling in the double broiler and stirred. The filling scooped the chocolate off the sides. I rolled it in balls, refrigerated it to set, and called it truffles.
Not pretty but yummy.
I doubled the amounts used in the original recipe. I think I was a little heavy handed on the chocolate because it didn’t make double the expected amount of cups for me.
The main reason that the husband didn’t want to go to England with me is because he declared that there was no food in England. That surprised me because I haven’t heard of their famine, the poor souls. He likes to pick vacation destinations based on the local cuisine. When I travel with him, meals are a huge part of the days.
On the other hand, my mother doesn’t eat. Actually she has breakfast and then around 3 PM she has a meal and declares herself done for the day.
I think that we ate very well in England. We were staying in apartments through airBnB so we had a kitchen in London. We were across the street from a small grocery store so we picked up some fruit and oatmeal for breakfasts.
Ping Pong is at St. Katherine’s Dock near the Tower of London and easy walking distance from our apartment. It is a dim sum restaurant. I love Chinese food but can’t eat it much because of the husband’s sesame allergies. We had a lovely meal with vegetable sticky rice and spring rolls being among a whole lot of vegetarian options to choose from. I celebrated the fact that I was openly eating Chinese food without worrying about brushing my teeth and lips and washing my hands and clothes before talking to the husband.
My mother fell in love with Pret a Manger for lunch. They have soups, sandwiches, and salads made up in coolers and you go grab what you want. She would have eaten there every meal. She was also fascinated with the people watching there. Most people grab and go but we’d fight for one of the limited tables and she’d be amazed every time with how many people were going in and out.
All About The Pies
When I posted about going to Bath, I got a comment recommending The Raven as a great place to eat. I looked at the menu online and got very excited. When we got to bath we tried to go for dinner but it was so crowded that we couldn’t get in. It is a small place. We came back for lunch the next day right as they opened. That was a good choice because it got crowded soon after.
We were here for the pies.
Look at that! If you aren’t vegetarian you may not notice what I saw right away. Not only is there a choice of vegetarian pies but ALL THE GRAVIES ARE VEGETARIAN! Yes, I will cross an ocean for you. Being a vegetarian means asking for no gravy on everything in restaurants. I bring my own gravy to Thanksgiving. Here is a restaurant serving 3 — count ’em THREE — vegetarian gravies as the only options.
I had the Heidi Pie with sage and onion and my mother had the fungi chicken also with sage and onion. This place also inspired me to make a cabernet gravy I found on pinterest at home. Vegetarian gravies are awesome.
I emailed this picture to the husband with the caption. “I’m eating amazing food with small sprinkles of death on top!”
This restaurant is across the road from Hampton Court. There is an outside eating area right on the Thames. There were people rowing boats and a swan hung out near us.
There were many vegetarian choices but I went with the Veg Pie. Field Mushrooms, Wilted Spinach and Hazelnuts, PanFried In White Truffle Oil, Topped With A Layer Of Béchamel Sauce Encased In Short Crust Pastry. My mother had fish and chips because she said she would have felt wrong not trying it.
So, eating in England went much better than my husband thought. I got my scandalized, tee-totaling mother into a few pubs. A few times we were too tired to care and grabbed prepared food from the grocery store for dinner.
We never did quite get the hang of restaurant etiquette. We could never figure out how to pay. We’re American. We expect to have the check dropped off after the food to pay at our leisure. Here we never saw a server after the food came so we had to flag people down and beg to pay. There is probably some British procedure for this that we were flagrantly flouting and adding the image of crass Americans. Sorry.
A few weeks ago I came across this article. Tasting Vegan “Cheese” with a Professional Cheese Taster. Since trying to be mostly vegan, I’ve weaned myself off most cheese. The first step was recognizing that I use cheese only in junk foods so that helped but still … nachos and macaroni and cheese and cheesecake and lasagna…. There are vegan cheese substitutes but they are made of all kinds of chemical crap and that defeats the purpose of being healthy. They aren’t all that good either.
So this article intrigued me. The cheese taster gave really high marks to the nut based cheeses and the maker of the cheeses has a cookbook.
The book is a little scary. The difference between this book and other recipes is that most of these cheeses are cultured. That means that they are made just like dairy cheeses. The only difference is that they start either with cashews or non-dairy yogurt instead of milk. I’m nervous about fermenting.
The first recipe is for rejuvelac. That’s basically your culture starter. I made mine by sprouting quinoa to make it gluten free. That takes a few days and I wasn’t ever sure if it was right or not. I used it to make some Basic Cashew Cheese that is basically a plain spread. It turned out tangy and good. I mixed some spinach dip mix with it and ate it with chips and salsa. Even the cheese-loving husband said he couldn’t tell the difference.
So now I’ve rounded up some of the more hard to find ingredients and am starting a cheese making assembly line for some of the more advanced cheeses.
Step One – Make a Cryptic List
I wanted to start a bunch of stuff and needed to know what to do first for all of them.
Step Two – Start the Cashews Soaking
When I need to soak cashews for sauces I usually just boil them to shorten the soaking time. I’m not sure if that will hurt the culturing though so I’m following the recipes the first time through. I have everything labeled so I know what is what.
Step Three – Make some Fast Cheeses
On the left is Meltable Muenster cooling to room temperature. It doesn’t get cultured so once it cools and then is refrigerated for a while I’ll have something to try tonight. Almost-instant gratification is good.
On the right is Meltable Monterey Jack starting to ferment. (The lid isn’t screwed on so it isn’t going to explode. It is just covering it.) It will sit out until tomorrow morning and then have the thickeners added. Does that scare anyone else? Normally I’m all —
But letting cheese sit out at room temperature on purpose so the mold gets a good hold on it does give me pause.
The rest of the cheeses take a while to make so I’m going to report back on the next Inspiration on Monday link up day in 2 weeks with how it all went.
It actually is serious. We aren’t just being difficult.
Before I started dating a person with food allergies I had no idea how serious they were. I’d hear stories about parents freaking out over peanuts and sigh. I had a cousin with a kid with multiple allergies and it was generally accepted that they were overreacting.
Restaurants have gotten so much more responsive about this in the last 10 years but I can think of two restaurants in my town who aggressively refuse to answer questions about allergies. They have signs up that say that allergic people shouldn’t eat there and one refused to even tell us if their hamburger buns had sesame seeds on top before we ordered. Not cool.
Not All Issues With Food Are the Same
Preference – I’m a vegetarian. I chose that lifestyle. If I accidentally eat some meat I won’t be happy but nothing bad will happen to me.
Intolerance – My body doesn’t function well if I eat dairy or wheat. This has been verified with blood testing. If I eat something that I have an intolerance to I’ll be uncomfortable but it isn’t life threatening.
Allergy – People with food allergies quickly develop signs from a rash to hives to anaphalaxis. This can be life threatening.
Don’t be the person who claims to have an allergy to an ingredient when actually you just don’t like it. Too many of those people can make restaurants less responsive to real allergies.
The Paranoia is Real – for some people
A vegetarian and a person with food allergies live together? Yeah, we’re those people. I read every label on everything everytime even if it doesn’t seem like there should be an allergen in it.
The worst is when an allergen gets trendy. Sesame is traditionally in Asian and Middle East food. Avoiding that is bad enough. Now people are sneaking sesame oil into everything. So if I ask to look at the ingredients on something you made from prepared ingredients, it is the voice of experience talking. It isn’t (just) that I don’t trust you. I don’t want to spend the next six hours in the hospital.
I’m way more paranoid than the husband is. I think it is because once the reaction being treated, he goes to sleep in the hospital bed. He doesn’t have to sit up all night making sure his favorite human isn’t about to have a secondary reaction. He’s never tried to find a hospital in an unfamiliar small town at night while on the phone with the 911 operator because his spouse said, “My lips feel funny” and then collapsed. As I tell him, he isn’t at risk of having to be a grieving widow. He’ll just die and get it over with. He agrees. That’s why he does things like pop a cracker in his mouth on a flight halfway over the Atlantic Ocean without reading the label. They almost needed the defibrillator to restart my heart when he did that.
I notice this all the time now. I was at a bagel shop when the person working dropped a piece of ham into the cream cheese. When he pulled it out it had sesame seeds that I guess had been spilled in the cream cheese stuck to it. He put it on the bagel sandwich he was making without a thought.
I don’t buy food from bulk bins if the scoops are able to reach containers that contain allergens because people don’t always use the designated scoop for the bin.
Open wire baskets of bread that sprinkle seeds down onto the loaves below, Reusing a knife at sub shops after just wiping it off, the list goes on and on. When I see it I automatically think, “There’s a hospital stay.”
How People Can Help
It is our responsibility to protect ourselves from allergies but people can help.
If you are going to be making food for an allergic person, find out what you need to know. (Tahini = sesame paste isn’t common knowledge it turns out). Ask if you aren’t sure.
Watch out for contamination. Don’t switch utensils in containers at the salad bar; use the designated scoop at stores; clean up spills of common allergens well in public places; etc.
Don’t act like you are being persecuted if someone asks you not to bring food with a specific ingredient. How are you going to feel if someone dies because you fought for your right to have a peanut butter sandwich? You can have it when you get home. You can go without. Seriously, I gave up hummus because I liked a guy. Don’t think that I didn’t weigh the pros and cons of that decision for longer than you might expect. “He’s a really great guy but… Hummus!” If I survived so can you.
Does anyone else deal with food allergies? What should people know?
I recently decided to go have myself checked out by a naturopathic doctor. I didn’t have any specific ailments but just wanted a check up. I filled out a long questionnaire and had some hair and blood testing done.
I got my results a few weeks later. I’m a long term vegetarian so I was interested in seeing what my hair mineral analysis said about my diet. I’m pretty much spot-on where I should be for all nutrients. Take that diet doubters! The only thing that is abnormal is that I have slightly high copper.
I also did a blood test to look for food sensitivities. These aren’t full on allergic reactions that send you to the hospital but foods that irritate your digestive system. I had an idea what it was going to find. My last meal before going to get my results was pizza with cheese dipping sauce and some tapioca pudding.
Like I expected I reacted to dairy. I reacted to everything they test in the dairy category. I reacted even worse to eggs. That surprised me. I don’t show the physical symptoms that I get from dairy with eggs.
I’m not too upset about that. I’m vegan at home 95% of the time anyway. I use almond milk all the time instead of cow milk. That’s lovely except my most reactive thing was almond followed closely by soy. I guess coconut milk it is for me.
I also reacted badly to gluten and whole wheat and spelt. Great. So we are up to gluten-free vegan. I still wasn’t upset and this sort of surprised the doctor. She said people sometimes cry when she gives results. I told her at the last visit that I don’t get stressed. She didn’t know that I’ve done this before. When I did the Whole Life Challenge it ended up being basically a gluten-free vegan challenge for me. I did it twice for 2 months at a time. I know what to do. I also know that I drop weight easily if I stick to it so I believe these results. I just get lazy and stop cooking food that I know is best for me.
Then things started to get rude. I was reactive to peanuts. I use peanut butter sometimes on the toast I’m no longer having or in smoothies.
After all this, the thing that really got me was that I was reactive to mushrooms. Mushrooms! I love mushrooms. I was going to get some mushroom spore inoculated logs for my garden this year and grow my own because I eat so many. At least cocoa and olives didn’t upset my sensitive self or there would be no point in going on.
I started the elimination diet immediately. She also gave me some supplements to support better digestion and to help support the liver. My cholesterol is high but the rest of the liver enzymes are good so we are doing some liver detox to see if it can handle the cholesterol and copper clearing a bit better.
Lately I’ve been reading a lot of food memoirs about people who are really into food. The more offbeat the food is, the better. They love their offal and bone marrow. I like food memoirs but I’d like to read one that actually has food that sounds good. I want to read one that doesn’t take numerous cheap shots at vegans. I want to read one that doesn’t make me feel bad about donkeys.
I’ve read Finding Ultra before but it is a good place to start with vegan memoirs. Rich Roll was a 40 year old former college athlete in the worst shape of his life when he decided to take control of his diet. His wife was into healthy eating so he decided to listen to her and almost accidentally became an ultra-endurance athlete.
“Committed” is a bold, offbeat, globe-trotting memoir that shows how the most ridiculed punching bag in high school became an internationally renowned crusader for the most downtrodden individuals of all — animals. This irresistibly entertaining book recounts the random incidents and soul-searching that inspired a reluctant party boy to devote his life to a cause, without ever abandoning his sense of mischief and fun. “Everyone has a tense moment in their career that makes them wonder, how the hell did I get into this mess?” writes Mathews. “For me, it was when I was dressed as a carrot to promote vegetarianism outside an elementary school in Des Moines, and a pack of obese pig farmers showed up and peeled off slices of bologna for kids to throw at me.”from Goodreads
I’m not a PETA fan but this one might be interesting.
“The Bloodless Revolution is a pioneering history of puritanical revolutionaries, European Hinduphiles, and visionary scientists who embraced radical ideas from the East and conspired to overthrow Western society’s voracious hunger for meat. At the heart of this compelling history are the stories of John Zephaniah Holwell, survivor of the Black Hole of Calcutta, and John Stewart and John Oswald, who traveled to India in the eighteenth century, converted to the animal-friendly tenets of Hinduism, and returned to Europe to spread the word. Leading figures of the Enlightenment among them Rousseau, Voltaire, and Benjamin Franklin gave intellectual backing to the vegetarians, sowing the seeds for everything from Victorian soup kitchens to contemporary animal rights and environmentalism.” from Goodreads
I’m excited about this one! I’m already reserved it at my library.
“Vegetarians differ from omnivores not just in their eating habits but also in their psychology, personalities, friendship choices, even their sex lives. Extensive studies from around the world show that they vote differently, take different jobs, and have brains that fire differently. This research also provides insight into why people who consider themselves vegetarian may not really be vegetarian at all, and why so many fall off the vegetarian wagon.
Veganomics is a fascinating journey through the science on vegetarians and vegetarian eating, shedding new light on how and why people eat the way they do, and what impact their dietary choices can have on the world around us. Be forewarned: after reading this book, you may never look at vegetarians the same way again!” from Goodreads
This one may journey a bit into the “Ooooh, vegetarians are weird…” category. I’m not sure but I’ll check it out. I’d also like to recommend it to the fella who recently took my order for a specific breakfast sandwich “without meat” who responded, “Do you still want the bacon on that though?”
“From the golden cups of Aztec emperors to the ice-cream dishes of U.S. presidents, Vanilla has mystified and tantalized man for centuries. The only orchid that produces an agriculturally valuable crop, vanilla can mask unpleasant tastes and smells, but also makes pleasant tastes stronger, smoother, and longer lasting. Because it has over four hundred separate flavor components, choosing premium vanilla beans is as complex as judging the aroma and taste of fine wine. Vanilla finds its way into over half of all dessert products sold worldwide, as well as the finest perfumes, well-known brands of rum and vodka, and even Coca-Cola and Pepsi.” from Goodreads
This isn’t a vegan book per se but vanilla is my favorite scent and flavor and I can’t think of a meat dish that uses it so it gets to go on the list.
While Phoebe Damrosch was figuring out what to do with her life, she supported herself by working as a waiter. Before long she was a captain at the New York City four-star restaurant Per Se, the culinary creation of master chef Thomas Keller. Service Included is the story of her experiences there: her obsession with food, her love affair with a sommelier, and her observations of the highly competitive and frenetic world of fine dining. She also provides the following dining tips:Please do not ask your waiter what else he or she does.Please do not steal your waiter's pen.Please do not say you're allergic when you don't like something.Please do not send something back after eating most of it.Please do not make faces or gagging noises when hearing the specials—someone else at the table might like to order one of them.After reading this book, diners will never sit down at a restaurant table the same way again.
Then there was this sentence on page 7 describing some time in France.
“I discovered a woman who made sausages from donkey meat, and I lived on baguettes and sausage for my remaining time there.”
No. Just no. I love donkeys and not for lunch. When I read that sentence for the first time my eyes lingered on the “donkey meat” and I figured the rest of the sentence would contain abject horror. Nope, I was in the wrong book for that.
Not sausage makings
The story in the book was interesting when it talked about the service requirements and training to open a potential 4 star restaurant. It is a world I can’t even imagine and probably will never experience based on the menus discussed in the book. (They did have a vegetable tasting menu that was briefly mentioned. I just looked it up and it is purely vegetarian. I was suspicious that they might cook the vegetables in veal stock and the tears of baby unicorns. If I want to spend $310 a person, I can go try it.)
There isn’t a lot here about intrigue in the restaurant. It hardly mentions the people cooking. It is mostly about weeks of training to be able to answer any question a guest may have including all the facts about everything that could be seen out the windows and all about the suppliers of the ingredients of the meals.
“Phoebe Damrosch is a writer living in Brooklyn. Her first book, Service Included, was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year in 2007.
She has written for the New York Times, Food and Wine, the Daily News, and has been featured in the Financial Times, Entertainment Weekly, Elle, American Way, Eating Well, the New York Post, and Slate.” from her website
I don’t normally review cookbooks but I love this book. I love it enough to actually own it and not just borrow it from the library.
I love Caribbean food. In particular, I love plantains. I can’t cook plantains at all. So I was excited to see that there are several plantain recipes in here. I made the Muscovado-Roasted Plantains. The sauce is very good but I don’t think I know how to pick a ripe enough planatain so they didn’t get as soft as I would like. I need to work on my plantain skills.
I’ve made the Hominy and Spinach in Tomato-Garlic Broth several times. It is a spicy tomato soup. Very good.
I’m looking forward to the Pomegranate-Peach Barbeque Sauce. The husband and I read the recipe names and drool. There are so many things I want to try here that I almost get paralyzed with indecision about what to make first.
But the thing that puts this book over the top? Each recipe comes with a song recommendation and several of them come with a book recommendation.
Recipes with book recommendations – I had to sit down when I saw that.
There is fiction and nonfiction and poetry. I went through and looked up each book and added several to my TBR list.
I had a conversation with a person recently who was bemoaning her inability to eat healthy food because “vegetables just aren’t interesting!”
I thought of her the other day when I was making this meal.
Watermelon with honey and a little oil and lime juice and fresh mint from the garden
The husband requested vegan meatball subs that he then wanted to melt real cheese over. I pointed out the inconsistency. He didn’t care. The meatballs are made from mushrooms, kale, and quinoa. They were really good.
Get the recipe here.
Zucchini sandwich cookies with vegan cream cheese icing. Recipe here.
Yep, good to know that you can’t be creative or interesting with vegetables.
This is the last day of the Engine 2 Diet Challenge that I’ve been doing for the last 28 days.
The guidelines were an all vegan diet with minimal/no processed food and no added oil. I wasn’t perfect. I had some dairy along the way mostly by accident. I ordered a veggie burger and didn’t realize it came with cheese until I bit into it, etc.
But, we’ve had big changes around here in the last 28 days.
As of the end of last week I’d lost 10 lbs. It may be more now but I’m writing this before work and my only scale is at the office. That happened even though I ate my weight in vegan food every day in Vegas.
Remember the aspirational jeans? One pair went on but was too tight to wear in public and the other wouldn’t zip even though it was the same brand in the same size. I tried them on yesterday. I got frustrated because the one fit even worse than before when they were zipped up. Then I realized I had them confused. I had the pair on that I couldn’t zip up before! The other pair is looser but still can’t go in public. Maybe another 10 lbs from now?
The husband watched Forks Over Knifes all on his own. He didn’t realize the connection to what I’m doing. He decided to go vegetarian.
I had him meet with a dietician to tweak his diet so he had more energy and she told him everything I told him so he is leaning vegan with moments of cheese-fueled rebellion.
This is my refrigerator right now. I did some meal prep yesterday and now I have to make enough food to feed the husband too. There is veggie paella, potato soup from left over mashed potatoes, lentil sloppy joes, plain lentils, and three bean salad.
I plan on sticking with this since my results have been so good. I’ve been vegan at home for a while now and I’ll try to stay that way when I’m out. I’m not putting a label on it and saying I’m a vegan now especially when other people are cooking for me. Vegetarian in those situations is good enough.
I’ve realized that I’m at the point in veganism where I was before I went vegetarian. That was a gradual process over years until the last meat I was eating was Big Macs and Taco Bell meat. I realized one day around 2000 in the Taco Bell drive-through that those were the worst meats possible to eat and that it would be easier to just answer “Yes” when people asked if I was vegetarian instead of explaining. Right now I mainly want dairy in junk food. Cheesecake, ice cream, brownies, and all manner of desserts. I can make those vegan at home but if I’m out that is my temptation. I don’t really need to be eating those so as long as I stay on healthy foods I’m fine.
I like this way of eating because I can pretty much eat all I want. No worries about calorie counting. If you don’t believe that scroll back to read the Vegas meal posts. This is good for the husband too because he doesn’t like worrying about portion size.
It has been a good month for us. I’ll keep you posted on how it is going for both of us.
My poor husband is having a crisis. He met with the dietician on Tuesday to help him with his meal planning. He was nervous before the meeting. He kept referring to her as The Vegan High Priestess who was coming to get him.
He wanted me to be there to protect him. I’m not sure how I was supposed to do that. It turns out that I sat off to the side and sewed so I didn’t make eye contact with anyone. I did this because the dietician told him everything I had told him. He was realizing this too and he wasn’t happy. It is bad enough when your spouse is right, let alone when she is right about what you don’t want to hear.
He could have one of the easiest vegetarian/vegan transitions ever. He lives with a long time vegetarian who likes to cook. I’ve offered to cook for him but he is fighting that. I think he knows that it will be definitely healthy with no cheating if he agrees. When she gave him a list of pantry staples he read off a few unfamiliar things.
Me – “In the refrigerator.”
“Beside the stove.”
“I think I’ve only had tofu in soup.”
“You’ve had it blended into more things than you realize.”
“Oh…. um, I did not realize that.” (In a hopeful voice) “We don’t have a pressure cooker!”
“It’s in the basement. I don’t use it much.”
He was unamused but she was cracking up. He started referring to her as my evil emissary.
She was pretty firm with him that because of his multiple health problems and his desire to lose a significant amount of weight that cutting all animal products would be best. He was willing to go vegetarian but he is not at all happy with that advice. I think he knows she’s right and that’s why it is upsetting him so much. If he didn’t believe her he’d just blow it off.
Most of my recipes are on my iPad now but I pulled a few old cookbooks out of the cupboard and put them in the bathrooms. (That’s the best place to put things that you want to be looked at.) I told him to pick a few recipes that sounded good to him and I’d make them. He told me that he couldn’t use ANYTHING in the one book because it was vegetarian and not vegan. I told him to find something he liked and I’d make it work. So far he hasn’t told me anything. He’s still pouting.
After she left he defiantly ate a few spoonfuls of tapioca pudding he had from the deli. I think he expected me to yell at him but I just told him that he was free to do what he wants with the information he had. I think that ruined it for him so he put it back.
I’m making napoleons tonight for dinner. They are portabello mushrooms marinated in balsamic vinegar and then broiled topped with roasted peppers, mashed potatoes, and a balsamic reduction. He’s had it before. He likes it. It is vegan. Poor baby. I’ve already told him that we are having minestrone soup, cornbread, and salad on Saturday so he could see just how he was going to suffer and be deprived.
I also pointed out that I’ve now lost 10 lbs in the last three weeks eating like this. He huffed. I think he’ll like it once his body starts to adapt and especially if he starts losing weight. He is an all or nothing kind of person. He wants foods to be either totally off limits or he is allowed to eat it all. A plant based diet is good for that. He can have all the vegetables he wants. There isn’t any calorie counting or portion sizes. If he can break the habit of pouring vast quantities of parmesan cheese on everything then he will be home free.
I headed out of the city at the end of the convention to go to Zion National Park. I was staying in Springdale which is the town right outside the gates.
I really liked this town. It seems to exist solely for tourism but it isn’t tacky. There is no mini golf with flashing lights. This is a town that knows that the attraction is nature and they aren’t messing with it.
I was concerned about eating. I had researched the town on Happycow.com. This is a directory of vegetarian friendly restaurants. It mentioned a few places. I need to go post some updates on there. This town seems to be competing for vegans. There was a restaurant directory in my hotel room and each ad prominently said they catered to vegans. One Thai place that was on happycow claimed to be 23% vegan. I thought that was very precise of them. I wanted to go there but they were closed.
I ended up at The Spotted Dog on Thursday night. I had a garlic mushroom appetizer that has probably made me permanently immune to vampires. My main course was spaghetti. Decent but not amazing.
After hiking on Friday I went to Oscar’s Cafe for lunch. I loved their menu. They had an icon for vegetarian meals and an icon for meals that were easily made vegan. There were 6 or 7 vegan items.
I’m Back! For some reason the powers that be at ICANN decided that I wasn’t a real person and shut down my domain. It took 5 days to fix so I have a backlog of posts that were ready to go.
Are you ready for the most First World whine you’ve ever heard? I am so sick of eating – especially eating out. I want to be able to just wander to my own kitchen and get some food. I don’t want eating to be an ordeal. I now know that I would have been a horrible hunter-gatherer. “Oh, the buffalo are all the way over there? Let’s just skip it tonight then. I’m good.”
By the end of the trip I was forcing myself to eat dinner. I knew I was going to be hungry if I didn’t but it involved getting on a shuttle bus for a ride to a strip hotel and then walking for 15-20 minutes to go to a restaurant, eating, walking back to the bus, and riding to the hotel. By the time I mustered up the energy to go and then got back I didn’t want to write about it. So here is a quick rundown of the rest of my Vegas eating.
Border Grill Mandalay Bay
I love Mexican food and it can be tough to do vegan with all the cheese. I ended up with the avocado tacos here. The avocados were rolled in seeds of some type (sesame?) so they were a little crunchy. It was ok, not out of this world but I’m not a huge avocado fan.
They did have a huge sorbet collection for dessert. There were 7 flavor made that day. Some I couldn’t even imagine – jalapeño? prickly pear? I ended up with mojito and passion fruit. These were good.
Buffet at Wynn
I ended up at buffets for vegetables. Expensive vegetables because strip buffets don’t come cheap. Because this is Wynn there were vegan options at every station clearly labeled. At the pasta station there were no meat sauces at all and there was even a non-dairy Alfredo. I was disappointed that the only vegan desserts were a passion fruit tapioca and a mango sorbet. I thought here there would be more options.
Bacchanal Buffet at Caesar’s Palace
This is widely touted as one of the best buffets around. It was awful. It was just horribly run. Most food weren’t labeled at all or worse, was labeled incorrectly. I had some vegan sushi (good) but when I went back there was a new tray of obviously fish sushi with the vegetable label still over it. People in line were working together to try to figure out what they were eating. There would be a station with four dishes and five labels or a station with no labels at all. At the dessert bar every other one of the ice creams were labeled. Even with the worker having to answer, “What kind is that?” for every guest she didn’t fix the labels.
I am completely not the ideal Vegas demographic. I don’t drink. I don’t gamble and I like to be in bed by nine. But, I do like food and Vegas does vegetarian/vegan food well. The key is research ahead of time.
I had dinner tonight at barMASA at Aria. It is a Japanese restaurant. I had a huge bowl of winter mushroom udon. Wonderful. Not terribly filling so I’m already wishing I had eaten more. There were vegetarian rice dishes and sushi also.