But WHAT Do You EAT?: Vegetarian Summerfest FOOD 2011!

Summerfest was wonderful (which is an understatement) for many reasons, but one of the cherry-on-top bonuses of the week had to be that the college cafeteria was turned into a 100% vegan buffet for every meal. 

Every meal had a featured hot dish line, soup, fully stocked salad bar with homemade dressings (and extras like nutritional yeast and three kinds of lettuce!), a raw foods station, a gluten-free station, and several kinds of pizzas covered in Teese or Daiya. WOW.

(*Note: They do not offer coffee. Herbal green teas and juice like crazy, but for coffee you have to sneak off campus and drive a half mile up the road to stupid Starbucks. Which for some folks -ahem- needed to happen because the 4-5 hours of sleep every night made waking up difficult. Next year, BYO coffee pot.)

I took photos of almost every meal I had, and wanted to share them with you in case you are in a bit of a cooking/lunch idea/dinner menu slump. I may not remember everything exactly as it was, but I can tell you it was delicious and there is such a fun novelty of eating and not having to ask about ingredients, etc..

And now the real reason you’re here, the food!

Bean chili over quinoa with gluten free cornbread and sauteed greens. Mushroom pizza. Salad with the BEST RAW DRESSING OH MY GOSH.

A lunch.

 

Breakfast potatoes, mixed veggie millet, and fruit. Salad with lemon tahini dressing. Carrot muffin.

A breakfast.

This was my lunch after breakfast, a cooking demo with food samples, and hanging out at the vita-mix table… I opted for a mostly-raw lunch. The wrap is a savory tofu salad, and the raw foods plate is explained below.

A lunch.

They served raw food meals every day!

Sign explaining the above photo.

 

Salad, sauteed kale, pizza, veggie fritter, spicy cashew curry, raw peach soup, butterscotch cake.

A dinner.

Vegetable and tofu casserole, rice with a red pepper sauce, stromboli, salad with vegan thousand island dressing.

A lunch.

 

Baked BBQ tofu, collard greens, fresh herb and soup, pizza, salad, whipped berry dessert.

A dinner.

Potato bar! Sweet potato with tofu sour scream and PEANUT SAUCE THAT WAS INCREDIBLE, salad, bean and grains bake, garlic pizza, olive and tomato soup, cocoa cupcake.

A lunch.

 

FRENCH ONION SOUP!!!!!, unlimited Gardein baked chicken (*note: this was hilarious and weird because they are so much like chicken a lot of people were freaking out and thinking someone played a cruel joke), pasta and salad.

A dinner.

Pancakes with plums and cherries, grits, brown rice (got carried away with the sauce, woopsies), fruit and Field Roast sausage!  Plus the aforementioned coffee. 

A breakfast.

 

You’ll find this interesting: despite eating very well at every meal, noshing on cooking demo samples and lingering around the Vita-Mix guys several times a day… I lost weight. 

I thought it was just in my head, but my clothes were looser and upon returning home, one of the first things Ryan said to me mid-spooning was, “Where did your belly go?”     AH, THE POWER OF A PLANT-BASED DIET.

 

PRODUCT REVIEW: Daiya Pepperjack (Vegan) Cheese

For vegan cheese veterans, count me among the masses that adore Daiya products.

Ooey-gooey melty AND only 90 calories AND no animals harmed, everyone wins!

For those of of you that never tried it but are curious, let me encourage you to try it. It’s so good. SO GOOD.

Here’s the thing: I don’t buy it or use it very often. Mostly because a) it’s a little pricey; at $4.99 a bag it’s fine once in a while, but I don’t have the budget to smother everything with this stuff all the time, and b) I don’t want to rely on having to cover everything with cheese, albiet vegan, for something to taste good.

That said, I get some once or twice a month as a treat, and I cannot express to you my utter joy when I found out they had…. (cue dramatic music) PEPPERJACK “CHEESE”.

I can’t even believe I waited this long to get it, but it’s everything I hoped it would be and more. Last week I was lazy and just made some little pizzas for dinner. A basic whole wheat dough, jarred tomato sauce, and Daiya in the oven til crispy and melty.

This may, in fact, change your life.

You should be able to find Daiya at health food stores, and if you live in the Lehigh Valley I can confirm that Wegman’s stores also carry it (organic food refrigerated section).

The only downside to this stuff is that you are going to crave it and want to put it on everything, and just want to eat pizzas all day, every day, forever. But don’t let that stop you from enjoying this!

*If you’re new to Daiya products, I recommend (in order of most delicious, in my opinion): Pepperjack first, then Mozzarella, then Cheddar. 

Things I Like Thursdays!

Enjoy this random sampling:

Vegetarian Living UK Magazine – What a gorgeous publication! This magazine is in the realm of VegNews in that it has interviews, product reviews, recipes, and a smattering of other things – but it’s fancier. The photographs are lovely, the products reviewed all have great package design and functionality, and the recipes are simple but fresh. *Note: This is not specifically a VEGAN magazine, some recipes call for eggs and such, but it’s a great chance to practice your substituting skills! Costs $8.99, but worth it.

McDougall Soups – I try to keep a few of these guys in the house at all times. They make a healthy, tasty and quick meal if you’re off to work and don’t have any leftovers to pack. These soups are via Dr. John McDougall (famed doctor, author and advocate of plant-based diets). They are ALL organic and vegan, and come in awesome flavors like Black Bean Lime and “Chicken” Ramen. They are made with natural dehydrated ingredients – no crappy stuff here! Just add water and you have a tasty, healthy, low-fat lunch. And trust me, they are delicious. Approx. $1.79/each.

Lotta Jansdotter’s New Book – She’s done it again.  “Handmade Living: A Fresh Take on Scandanavian Style”, the newest addition to Lotta Jansdotters DIY craft books, is a collection of home decor ideas, flea market finds mixed with modern peices, and of course, how to make your own gorgeous prints. Like most of her books, this one does include stencils to help you make most of the print designs featured in the book, and also recipe cards! This is a great resource to get your mind thinking creatively, and get your home a little more beautiful, too. List price, $29.95 (Amazon has it for $10 off!).

Folding Yoga Mat – If you have to buy exercise equipment that maybe happens to sit in storage too often, it should take up as little precious space as possible, right? I recently discovered this folding yoga mat. This takes care of what happens when you unroll another mat only to find it curled and distorted. This will make it more difficult to find excuses not to exercise. Various brands and prices.

Letterpress Recipe Cards – I confess. Many of my recipes that aren’t in actual books are scribbled haphazardly on tiny pieces of paper scattered around my kitchen. If you’re like me, then you’re due for an upgrade from that, uh, filing system. (Failing system? HA HA.) Take a gander at these gorgeous handmade letterpress recipe cards! The type is hand drawn and turned into letterpress plates. And for the price, you get the whole SET which includes 42 recipe cards in 6 colors, and 7 category divider cards. So pretty, so functional. Let’s make this step together. $29.00 from 1 Canoe 2, via Etsy.

SUBSTITUTE TEACHING.

Yesterday I had a lovely morning in the Wise Bean cafe (ahem, see yesterday’s HEART OF STEELcity post!) with my buddies, and one friend that recently lost a bunch of weight by following a very specific weight loss program said she’d like to try using dairy substitutes when she starts eating “real food” again. She’s not vegan or vegetarian, but has found that the way her body feels and reacts to her eating dairy is, well, negative.

That got me thinking about today’s post. Once I said the blatantly obvious, “Low fat soymilk!”, I had a flood of other simple switches for healthier, animal-free (and thus, entirely cholesterol-free) alternatives for cooking.

For a CREAMY texture: Try nuts, like raw cashews – but be wary of added fat if you are looking to lose weight. Great Northern beans (white beans) also have a very mild, almost neutral flavor that help to thicken soups when pureed. And of course, silken tofu.

If you aren’t familiar with different kinds of tofu, silken tofu is sold off the shelf in an aseptic box as it doesn’t need to be refrigerated. If you’re making a soup, sauce, or salad dressing the “soft” kind will thicken it and also add protein. It’s neutral in taste, so you get all the creamy texture you want without any fat of a heavy cream! For things like desserts or pies, try “firm” or “extra firm”.

Healthy/Healthier Sandwich CONDIMENTS: Fat is tasty. It just is. That’s why so many people like mayonnaise – it’s just oil and raw eggs  whipped together. (Sorry to freak you out if you didn’t already know that!) If you want to keep the fatty, creamy mayo taste and feel, consider switching to Vegenaise. This stuff is freaking delicious. Even people that don’t like mayo love it! It’s not exactly low-fat, but it’s free of dairy, eggs, refined sweeteners, etc… It is sold in the refrigerated section of the “health food” department at your local store.

Other great options for sandwiches and veggie burgers are: hummus, something you buy pre-made or make your own with hummus-style spread by blending beans of your choice with garlic, onion, herbs, or spices. You can also make a homemade pesto-type spread with herbs or green veggies blended with nuts and garlic.

Replacing EGGS in Baking: These are great alternatives for people looking to lower their cholesterol (the yolks of eggs are little yellow orbs of that stuff!), or just use better alternatives. Eggs are a binding ingredient, so depending on what you’re baking, you achieve similar results by using fruits like mashed banana (this is AMAZING in muffins and pancakes!) or mashed avocado. Applesauce is a common replacement when you can have a more wet batter, or you can buy Ener-G egg replacer – white powder that looks like baking soda that you mix with some water. But one of the healthiest and best egg-alternatives is ground flax seed.

It’s best to buy whole flax seeds (you can sometimes find them in bulk bins at the store), and grind them in a coffee grinder or equivalent. Grind 1 Tablespoon of flax seeds, transfer to a bowl and add 3 Tablespoons of water. When you whisk it or mix with a fork, it will become goopy and sticky and this will replace 1 egg. This is best use for things that aim to taste whole-grainy, as flax seed has an earthy, nutty flavor.

un-TUNA Sandwiches: If you like cold, meat-based salads like tuna or chicken salad, you can create very similar vegan salads! You can use all the seasonings you’d normally put in the tuna salad, use Vegenaise instead of mayo, and the filling can be mushed chick peas! Just mush a can of chick peas into a bowl and it will make that “meaty” texture! Or, try using textured vegetable protein (TVP), which is small dehydrated pieces of soy flour that has been pressed and formed into little chunks. If you’ve ever used “fake ground hamburger”, imagine that but without the flavor added. Once rehydrated, a flavorless food that takes on the flavor of whatever you mix it with.

You can also try crumbled tempeh. Tempeh is a thick cake-like food made of pressed soy and grains that has been fermented. Don’t let the f-word deter you! It has absolutely wonderful texture. It can be cut in cubes for a stir fry, sliced thin to make tempeh-bacon, or crumbled up for a sandwich filling. If you like grainy, textured artisanal breads, you’ll love this. It’s best to steam the tempeh for about 10 minutes before you use it to remove any bitter flavor.

Sugar-Free SWEETNERS: The problem with sugar isn’t so much that the one teaspoon you add to your coffee will hugely effect your health – a teaspoon only has 16 calories – it’s that huge amounts of sugar are put into EVERYTHING (processed foods), often in the form of high fructose corn syrup. If you aren’t eating many whole foods, chances are you are consuming a surprising amount of sugar from places you wouldn’t expect.

Agave Nectar has been getting rock star treatment as a great sweetner alternative. It’s sweeter than sugar, so a little goes a long way, and has the consistency of a thin syrup. It’s made from the agave plant (same as tequila! woo hoo!) and doesn’t cause a spike in blood sugar levels. It does have about 60 calories in a Tablespoon, similar to white sugar but obviously less refined and processed. You can also use brown rice syrup which is more mild than agave nectar, but it does cause blood sugar to spike so it may not be great for diabetics.  Maple Syrup (the REAL kind, not Aunt Jemima’s – no offense to her) is a better alternative than honey as it is much lower in calories, and is a great source of manganese and zinc!

Please feel free to comment with some of your favorite substitutions!

Stuff yourself with stuffed (toy) food.

Over the weekend I was conducting ridiculous ebay searches, and found something truly incredible: stuffed animal tofu dolls in various colors! They are even marketed as “collectibles”. Holy gosh! They are so cute! Today, I bring you some of the cutest vegan-related food and animal toys.  Is there anyone that doesn’t like chubby little plush versions of regular everyday things? These should feed the kid in you.

These are the items that kicked off my newfound obsession with plush food. I went on ebay and searched “tofu” and found these silly, ridiculous but unabashedly awesome tofu stuffed-animals (stuffed NON-animals?). I am completely in love. The next time I have very dispensable income, you will all be mine!  And lest we forget about this HUGE TOFU that can sit on a chair in your kitchen and watch you cook! I KNOW, RIGHT!?

Friends, my birthday is in September. Hint hint.

Onward to other cute stuffed foods:

Here is an adorable set of felt veggies! I love the speckled zucchini and brown underside of the mushroom cap. Is it weird that I want to put these in a bowl in my kitchen? I bet they are soft enough that even Pierogi would crawl in and snuggle up with the green beans. More awesome felt fruits and vegetables are found in the Etsy shop, like watermelons and slicable (!) kiwis, and spaghetti with veggie-meatballs. Set from Felt Playground, $22.50 for 5 vegetables.

If you’re crafty and wield a mean crochet hook, consider buying this pattern for a vegetable garden! For a few dollars, you can make your very own window planter box and “grow” crocheted potatoes, carrots, turnips and onions. A simple change of yarn color and you can make even more vegetables, like radishes and beets! I LOVE the idea of making this for a new baby. So much more hip than the usual crochet baby blanket. Pattern from Crafty Anna, only $5.oo!

Why should humans all the fun? For some of the most truly unique cat toys you’ve ever seen, you have to check out the shop of OhBoy CatToy. All toys are made with organic catnip inside. For $10, you get a set of 2 tacos. Some of the other toys include: VanGogh’s ear, a beer mug with eyes, a camera, a roll of toilet paper, and I’m hesitant to say a... bearded clam. I wonder if they’ll ever make a pierogi, and then I could say “Pierogi is chewing on a pierogi!”. That’s kind of weird. Nonetheless, these are cute and weird and totally original. If cat toys have to be sprawled all over the living room floor, they may as well be conversation-starters. Check out OhBoy CatToy, toys starting at $3.00.