Eating Out

One of my toughest weekly balances is eating out v. cooking in. We have a killer pantry set-up. We can spend under $20 at the farmer’s market and eat practically gourmet all week. We can cook three dishes and make them cover our lunches/dinners and then some even into the weekend. And yet. We live in Portland. An absolute paradise when it comes to eating out vegan. How can I stay in and cook with all of those tempting dishes throwing themselves at me on my bike ride home?

I’ve started allotting for time to eat out. I make a weekly meal plan (because it helps with the shopping which makes things cheaper! and also I’m kind of crazy) and now I note 2-3 meals/week where I can eat out. If I don’t give myself this permission from the get-go, I find myself making up excuses to go out all week long, and all my groceries go to waste!

Breakfast sammich from DC Vegetarian.

Breakfast is one of the hardest meals to justify eating out, particularly during the work week – normally I just have a smoothie at 8am followed by some oatmeal at 10am. I always have the ingredients to make these two items, and they start my day on such a healthy note. But you’ll notice that neither of those things are bagels, the item that makes my heart flutter. So Fridays, I often give myself the okay to go out and hunt for a breakfast treat downtown. I was very excited to see that DC Vegetarian started serving breakfast, and this bagel sandwich did not disappoint. Only $3.50 for this tofu patty, vegan cheese, avocado, tomato and roasted red pepper sauce on a Dave’s Killer Bagel. The price was right, the breakfast was satisfying and the sauce was so flavorful! The long walk keeps me from eating there more often, but I hope this cart never goes.

Luc Lac’s Lemongrass Tofu Bahn Mi.

I recently went back to Luc Lac after not visiting for almost six months. I used to frequent this place (it’s such a perfect spot to meet a friend for lunch!), but one day I was mistakenly given pork spring rolls with my vegan dish. I know it was a busy night, but it’s hard to go back to a place where you found yourself with meat in your mouth. However, their flavorful pho and filling bahn mi kept calling me, so I went to give it another try. I have to admit, I now crack open each spring roll before eating, but my experience has been pleasant enough to warrant the return. I love the tofu on the pictured bahn mi, love the price (that plate is $7 – sorry Sweet Hereafter, but Luc Lac wins the bahn mi round), and that place is so cute that I can’t help but want to hang out at the bar and read my book while munching on this lunch.

White Owl’s burger week contribution.

So the Portland Mercury recently hosted a Burger Week in Portland, encouraging local places to put their best burgery foot forward and attempt to outdo each other. White Owl had the only vegan option in town, but frankly, I didn’t even need to eat any other burger after this one. Very similar to their current one, this beet & hazelnut patty was covered in chimchurri sauce and fried onions. The additions were so good that I might be tempted to write to them and ask for this concoction to be on the menu full-time. I’m always put off a little bit at the white bun at first, but I do appreciate that the bread steps back so you can enjoy the flavors of the burger itself. Oh, and all White Owl burgers come with fries, which is an ABSOLUTE MUST in my book. And their fries are soooooo good.

Moral of the story? I guess, anything in moderation – there is definitely a time and place to indulge in eating out, and the results are often worth it.

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Gimme Pizza

P-I-Z-Z-A

This weekend was a very successful vegan/food weekend in the following ways:

  1. My friends brought me an amazing burrito from San Diego.
  2. My coworkers ate 9 out of 12 beet burgers that I brought to the company picnic, and I’m still receiving compliments at work today.
  3. I ate a pear and “brie” sandwich at a place only 10 blocks from my house that I’ve never been to and it was fantastic. What’s up, Hazel Room?
  4. We harvested a ridiculous amount of kale and started making kale chips for the first time.
  5. AND, we made pizza using store-bought cornmeal crust (super awesome – want to make my own and fill the freezer!), homemade cashew cheese, spiced tomato sauce made from a small can of paste, fresh zucchini, tomato, garlic, red onion, and finished off with a bit of Italian Field Roast. It was stupid good. Like, I had the leftovers cold for lunch and I still felt all gourmet.

Being vegan rules.

The kale & tomato harvest.

Pizza, before.

Pizza, after.

Begin Again

Welp, I haven’t posted in awhile. I also changed the layout. And deleted the posts that weren’t so vegan-related (no one really needs to hear me whining about being bored at work). Vegan MoFo is just around the corner, and despite being out of town for two weeks, I’ve decided I’m going to participate again. For real. For the whole month. I promise!

So I guess I’d better get back in the habit of posting crap.

Sweden

To kick off Vegan MoFo (and you know, to take a long overdue vacation), J and I are going to Sweden! Two weeks of train rides, new sites, cooking in hostel kitchens, and discovering buffets. I’m a bit nervous about my options, but since we’re sticking to the big cities, it looks like it won’t be that hard to eat vegan in Sweden. Can’t wait to post more on this and share pictures – 17 days to go!

Garden

We learned so much from our garden last year and stepped it up a notch this time around. More tomatoes, an extra bed, and even trying beans! I’m so glad that we planted zucchini instead of yellow squash this year – if I have to eat a ton of one vegetable each week, I know what I’d rather have.

Harvest!

You can see a few items we picked this past weekend. Don’t mind the weirdly shaped carrots, we’re going to till the ground MUCH deeper next year. I will share updates on the upcoming insane tomato harvest.

Cooking/Eating Out

We’ve been so much better about cooking at home this summer (which is hard when you get off work and just want some chips/salsa/beer for dinner), and have made some pretty tasty dishes, from tempeh bbq bowls to bell pepper casserole. But of course we still find ourselves pulled out by the beet burger at White Owl or pizza at Portobello. As I get back in the swing of things, I’m hoping to share more of what we make and reviews of things we eat out.

Happy to be back!

Thanksgiving Update?

Better late than never! Except that I didn’t really take any pictures of the food. But Thanksgiving was awesome this year. Great people, great food, a stomach in total pain…now that’s a holiday. I mean, look how happy we all are:

Sit down style.

But I learned a lot this year. It’s tough hosting a dinner for 12 people, but after four years, I’m starting to get a sense of it.

It’s not easy just because it’s a potluck.
It’s so great not having to cook everything from scratch myself, knowing there will be too much food, and variety of flavors and dishes. But goddamn, trying to reheat everything at the same time is near impossible. And realizing that no one brought a serving spoon for their dish. And wondering how to serve two different kinds of gravy when you only have one gravy boat. And trying to balance the dish of roasted veggies while you move other dishes to make room (you wont be able to and the veggies will fall on the floor and you’ll feel like an asshole). I underestimated this year a little bit because our own dishes were so prepared (the kitchen was actually clean before others started coming over!), and I really should have realized that I would need more help in the eleventh hour.

Ask for help.
See above. I’m still kicking myself for saying no to those that did offer. It wasn’t until it was too late that I recognized I couldn’t do it alone.

Keep the wine OUTSIDE of the kitchen.
Hard to dart around the kitchen when it’s full of people!

Dinner wont be on time.
People will show up late, the gravy will take extra time, etc. Better to just let it come together when it’s ready than try to force it.

Serve appetizers.
So last year we had appetizers, and it just seemed so silly to eat before eating such a huge meal – we were all way full and ended up with tons of leftovers. But you will have that friend that didn’t eat before coming over and tries to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich while you’re cooking. So avoid this and just put out some chips and salsa.

Keep the after game dinner simple.
Talk about something we did right this year. Last year we played Life and I’m still finding game pieces all over the house. This year we played Cards Against Humanity (awesome game, everyone should own it!), and it was so nice to play something that didn’t take away from the food coma.

Per usual, I decreed that I would never do this again…but now I’m starting to think next year could be even more awesome.

My Daily Bread

So I cheated. “What Lorelei? You cheated on day three of pumpkin eating? How could you? How can we trust you for the rest of the month to fulfill your pumpkin duty??” I know, I know. BUT. I cheated with a pumpkin spice latte. And while there is no actual pumpkin in those things, they are one of the most popular pumpkin-flavored food items in the world (source not found). I mean, it’s not autumn until you’ve had a nice hot latte that smells and tastes like melted pumpkin pie. Pumpkin pie that wakes your ass up at work when you had yet another night full of weird dreams. Side note, no more reading Dances with Dragons right before falling asleep.

Soy Half Caff Pumpkin Spice Latte. What a mouthful! Made with Torani syrup. The barista let me read the label, because I was curious on what spices were actually in it. Yah, it’s sugar and “natural flavors”. So who knows. But it tasted great!

Yesterday my pumpkin item was my breakfast smoothie. Last year I posted about my daily food intake, and I was surprised to see very little has changed. It’s important to me to try and eat healthy and often (with the occasional latte or cobbler bar, of course), so my food intake looks mostly like this:

  • First thing in the morning: Smoothie! Brought to you by our new Vitamix! Made with non-dairy milk (soymilk if I’ve made some recently, almonds & water if I haven’t), hemp protein powder, kale (from the garden!), a handful of frozen berries, and a scoop of peanut butter. Variations include different fruit, carob powder, and hemp oil. For the pumpkin smoothie, I replaced the berries for 1/2c. of canned pumpkin and added some cinnamon and nutmeg. We’ll drink this smoothie down while making lunches/getting dressed – with it we have a vegan DHA pill and a vegan multivitamin.
  • Breakfast (roughly 10am): Oatmeal. At work we each keep some quick cooking oats, almonds, and raisins. Just put in a bowl, add some hot water and voila!
  • Lunch (roughly 12:30pm): Piece of fresh fruit and either a small sandwich or leftovers from dinner the night before. Sometimes we’ll make a tempeh rice bowl. Sometimes we’ll throw together a salad and bring it if lunch doesn’t look filling.
  • Snack (roughly 3pm): Soyyogurt (we live off Wildwood, but I want to start making our own soon!) with a few frozen berries mixed in. Sometimes we’ll bring a small second lunch.
  • Dinner (roughly 6-7pm): The usual vegan fare – we try to always include a complete protein (we’re big rice and bean eaters) and some kind of vegetable or green. We also try to make something that will produce leftovers as often as we can – it’s a great week when we have time to make a casserole.
  • Snack (roughly 9pm): If I’m not going to sleep too early, I’ll usually have a piece of peanut butter toast, or some air-popped popcorn, or a couple pieces of licorice.

I’m sure there’s some room for improvement, but for two people with crazy busy schedules, we do very well on eating well-rounded homemade goods. It’s funny to see the amount of tupperware I pull out of my bag at work though! We manage to keep it at $70/week for groceries for the two of us (which, considering the oils, vitamins, and other specialty items, I’m totally okay with), and we stay full, healthy, and strong enough to cycle.

Pumpked!

So, beyond blogging constantly, I’ve promised to eat something made with pumpkin each day of October. We haven’t done our weekly shopping yet (I had a cross race on Sunday, give me a break!), so at about 10pm last night, J and I hopped over to New Seasons last night to see if we could find any vegan pumpkin treats. Nothing like cutting it close to the first deadline.

Luckily, they had some Pumpkin Pie Cobbler Bars made by Black Sheep Bakery (their website seems to be down, or I’d link to them) fresh in the deli case.

This is what I look like when I eat? Anyway, you can see that the bar is massive – we bought just the one to split and it was more than enough. Their cobbler bars are soooo good, and this one was very moist with a nice crumble top. I would have preferred a thicker pumpkin layer, but I did also appreciate that the flavor wasn’t totally overwhelming. I’m looking forward to cooking with pumpkin myself, but it’s really nice that Portland has so many vegan pumpkin-y treats available.

Since the picture of my pumpkin smoothie from today is still on my camera, let’s instead talk about the health benefits of pumpkin! Because even though I’m doing this for the kitsch factor, pumpkin is still a pretty amazing squash. And you know, it’s great to learn CUZ KNOWLEDGE IS POWER.

  • Pumpkin is one of the lowest calorie vegetables (I’m assuming after lettuce and celery?), but it’s super rich in fiber, anti-oxidants, minerals, and vitamins, making it great for weight loss (just ask my friend’s dog, seriously).
  • Pumpkin seeds are rich in protein! One ounce of pumpkin seeds contains about seven grams of protein. How do you like that, fellow vegans? They’re also rich in fatty acids.
  • Pumpkin is super high in carotenoids, helping prevent premature aging,  cardiovascular diseases, and protecting the eyes from degeneration. Basically, pumpkins are the fountain of youth. Oh, and since this is the same stuff that’s in carrots and sweet potatoes, yes, it can turn your skin orange. Like I said, should be an interesting month.
  • Pumpkin is high in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Magnesium, Potassium, Zinc, and Fiber. I feel healthier from my cobbler bar already!
  • “Pumpkin flesh contains L-tryptophan, a chemical compound that triggers feelings of well-being and happiness. Having pumpkin as a part of your daily diet can keep your spirits high and prevent depression.”  You guys! I’m going to be in a perpetual thanksgiving comma! This is getting better and better.
  • Information found at: http://www.bewellbuzz.com/nutrition/pumpkin-health-benefits/ (with some cross-checking on other sites)

Pies!

First 21012 VeganMoFo post! I think it’s going to be a good month, between cooking, eating pumpkin every day (though I’m already finding it difficult – we’ll see how long this lasts), and cyclocross. Although today is the first day of October, this month really kicked off for me on Saturday with a run to Bob’s Red Mill (pantry: stocked!), Dave’s Killer Bread (freezer: stocked!), and ton of pie making.

J said that I should save all my trials and tribulations for the end of my posts, but I do want to note one thing I learned: whenever you estimate cooking time, add an hour. For being a such a timely person, I’m terrible at estimating how long something will actually take to cook (probably because I used to ‘cook’ with pre-made goods that only required heating), and starting to bake pies at 4:30pm for a 7pm party was a bad idea. Needless to say, we were about an hour late.

However, we ended up making some kick-ass food! J loves fruit pies, and made an apple blackberry pie, sweetened only with blueberry juice (seriously, the only sugar was a tiny bit mixed in his glaze for the crust).  We both made a half white/half whole wheat crust with vodka – I had a little sugar in mine though.

The chef mixing the pie crust together. He actually has a great pastry cutter, but I had stolen it at that point. Note his amazing cat apron.

The crust came together so easily and held together great! I really noticed the difference with the vodka and was very impressed with the flakiness. Still not convinced that chilling the dough does anything, but hey, better safe than sorry.

The fruit and juice was stewed together on the stove and left to sit and congeal for awhile. Did you know apples have natural pectin that make this process go very well? Of course, a little cornstarch never hurt.

Blurry, but you can see the pretty colors of the fruit in the crust! Was all I could do to keep from spooning tastes out at this point.

Mr. J glazing the top of the pie with almond milk, a touch of sugar, and cinnamon. Note the crazed pie look. Note the cat apron. Note that we used Vegan Pie in the Sky for the crust recipe and info on baking times.

The final pie. Isn’t she beautiful? Looking at this picture makes me sad we finished it last night. Great job, J!

I decided to go the savory route and the pain-in-the-ass route, and made individual pot pies! I saw it on Pinterest so OF COURSE IT MUST BE DONE. While completely adorable (and way tasty), I don’t know if all the work is worth it – pie crust is not the easiest dough in the world to manipulate, and by #12 (that’s right, I only made 12, deal with it), I was cursing all pies. I may try it again, but I may have to learn some new techniques for rolling out.

My slop. Adapted from the All-American Seitan Pie in the Veganomicon – the biggest differences being no celery and store bought seitan (what’s up, Upton’s!). Using the dutch oven was the best idea I had, this made WAY more than I thought it would. I still have enough filling for a 9-inch pie!

Look at them! All cute and mini! They look like they’ll never come out of the pan, don’t they? I sure spent the next two hours freaking out about that. What’s wonderful about this size though is that they only took 30 minutes to bake.

I need to work at taking better pictures. But you get the idea. They came out! In one piece! Fairly easily! And tasted good! It almost makes the effort worth it.

So there you have it. Most likely the longest post and most baking I will do this entire month.