Monday, February 29, 2016

Vegan Week: Day 1


Well, it took me three months, but I'm back ... for a little while, at least.

My favorite picky eater, Craig, left today to go visit his kids in California. They'll indulge in pizza, pizza, Mexican food, and more pizza. Craig may make some of Jennifer's and Justin's favorites: chicken and rice pilaf or indulgently overstuffed chicken tacos.

I miss him while he's gone - I do! But when Craig goes away, all his little dietary quirks go away, too. Remember, he's a man who won't eat peas. Or sweet potatoes. Or biscuits. The list goes on ....

So when Craig is off having fun with his kids on the West Coast or visiting flea markets on the East Coast, I always relish the opportunity to have foods that I can't eat otherwise. I love to cook, but it's just a bother to cook two separate meals for two separate people. And the dishes ... oy.

This time, I decided to do something different. This time, I decided to challenge myself.

So, folks, welcome to my experiment: Vegan Week!!! From this morning's breakfast through Friday's dinner, I am eating a plant-based diet.

No meat. No eggs. No fish. No cheese. Lots of fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. And treats ... treats, absolutely!

This required a fair amount of advance planning, without regular meals like burgers or fried eggs to fall back on in a pinch, so my pantry and refrigerator needed a boost. A schlep through the grocery store yielded a cart filled with fennel, spinach, scallions, mushrooms, zucchini, squash, lime, whole grain flatbreads, soy ice cream, almond milk, salsa, and Fritos (yes, they're vegan. The double-stuffed mint-flavored generic store brand Oreos are vegan, too.).

So, I got started this morning.

Full of anticipation and curiosity, I made my coffee. I added the almond milk-based coffee creamer ... and I nearly gave up my week's mission right there. Bleah.

The "creamer" was thin, and it bore no resemblance to the caramel flavoring the carton had promised. I drank it, because giving up animal products was one thing; giving up coffee ... nope. And black coffee? I'm not ready for that much challenge yet.

But things got better with breakfast: Elvis-Style Oatmeal, thankyouverymuch!

Elvis-Style Oatmeal, with peanut butter and banana.

Made with a splash of almond milk, a dollop of crunchy peanut butter, and a sliced banana, it had creaminess, crunchiness, and comfort all in one bowl. I ate an entire generous serving that likely could have fed two, if Craig had shown any interest in it (and if there had been any left!) when he woke up this morning.

For lunch, I brought my favorite salad to work: fattoush, a Middle Eastern salad flavored with sumac for a pinch of tart spice. I had purchased just a few assorted olives at the grocery store (another verboten item, as Craig only eats the tinny black California variety), and tucked them into my lunchbox, too, along with the vividly green mint faux-reos.

Dinner was a more glamorous take on the standard beans and rice, which was actually pinto beans served over a mix of rices and quinoa. I sautéed the beans with garlic, red and green onions, red pepper flakes, a bit of chopped orange pepper, some chopped tomatoes, and a dash of chipotle-infused salsa. And then, for a little extra crunch and flavor, I topped it with ... no, not cheese. Fritos. Crushed Fritos. It was the perfect touch.

Pinto beans with onions, garlic, orange pepper, corn, tomatoes, and Fritos.

So, join me on the adventure, whether by enjoying some of the meals (recipes will be posted each day, I hope!) or, at least, living vicariously through the pictures.

It's good to be back ... :)

Elvis-Style Oatmeal

1/2 cup vanilla-flavored almond milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup quick-cook oats
2 tablespoons crunchy peanut butter
1 banana, sliced

Place almond milk, water, and oats into a small saucepan; bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer. Stir until oatmeal is thickened, then stir in peanut butter. Place oatmeal into a bowl and top with the banana.

Yield: 1 generous or 2 smaller servings.
Source: Mary Bilyeu


Lettuce, torn into small pieces
Thinly sliced cucumber
Thinly sliced radish
Bits of red onion
Crushed pita chips
Lemon juice
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Generous pinch of ground sumac (available at Middle Eastern markets)

Proportions and quantities are variable, depending upon personal taste and the number of people eating the salad.

Place the vegetables and the pita chips into a mixing bowl. Whisk together lemon juice, oil, salt, pepper, and sumac; make it more/less sour, more/less salty, etc., as you like it. Pour the dressing over the salad; toss and serve.

Note: Feel free to add sliced carrots, chopped peppers, tomatoes, parsley, or other items that you'd like.

Source: Mary Bilyeu

Pinto Beans with Rice and Quinoa

1 bag Minute Multigrain Medley (rice and quinoa)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped red onion
Generous pinch of red pepper flakes
Ancho chili powder, to taste
Chili powder, to taste
1/3 cup corn kernels
2 scallions, chopped
1/4 cup chopped orange pepper
1 small tomato, cored, chopped
1 15.5-ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup fresh chipotle salsa
A few Fritos, crushed

In a small saucepan, combine rice/quinoa with water. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 10 minutes until water is absorbed.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic, red onion, and red pepper flakes; saute until onion is translucent. Add chili powders and corn; cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add scallions, orange pepper, and tomato; cook 2 to 3 minutes, until pepper softens. Add beans and salsa; bring just to a boil, then simmer.

To serve, place the rice/quinoa mix onto a plate and top with bean mixture. Sprinkle the crushed Fritos over the top.

Yield: 2 generous servings.
Source: Mary Bilyeu

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