Vegan Week, Day 6

If there’s anyone out there who’s actually reading this on a daily basis, you might be wondering, “Wait, what happened to Day 5?” Well, I did eat only vegan foods on Day 5 but I didn’t have time to cook anything or write about it, as my dog went in for unexpected surgery.

Spirulina almond milk banana shake

I threw together an almond milk banana shake with spirulina (I did find spirulina finally) – a small photo here. Yes it’s very green, and so good for you. I forced myself to eat some leftovers from the past few days while my dog was at the vet, and then we ordered in dinner so I could keep a close eye on the little patient. Actually, dinner is worth noting: we tried a vegan restaurant in Park Slope, The V-Spot, which has a wide range of Mexican, Italian, and Asian vegan food. It was good! We shared crispy nuggets with barbeque sauce as an appetizer, and then my boyfriend got the Philly Cheese”steak” (soy steak, onions, peppers, mushrooms and soy cheese), and I got a whole wheat quesadilla with soy cheese, chipotle black beans, sweet plantains, green peppers and onions. And the dessert menu sounded completely awesome. Anyway, on to Day 6…

Day 6: Brunch

Curry tofu scramble with wilted spinach

A few weeks ago, we went to a restaurant in my neighborhood that I love, Flatbush Farm, where I had a curried tofu scramble with sauteed kale for brunch that I dreamed about for the next few days. So I went looking for a recipe that sounded similar. There are several out there, and I decided to try this one. I didn’t have fennel seeds but I think that’s ok. It was really good, especially on top of a slice of whole wheat toast. The Flatbush Farm version had some kind of delicious sweetness to it though, so next time I’ll try adding honey (not vegan) or sugar or agave. Just a note – it is very spicy, so you should reduce the chili pepper flakes if that’s an issue.

Day 6: Dinner
We had planned to meet up with friends on the Upper East Side for dinner. At first, without thinking too much about it, we decided on an Italian restaurant, and I thought I could just find some sort of veggie pasta and ask them to hold the cheese. About three hours before dinner, the chef side of my brain woke up and I realized that I’ve made my own pasta before and there is usually egg involved. A quick call to the restaurant (which really made me appreciate what full-time vegans must go through all the time) confirmed that there was egg in all of their pasta dough. So it was either survive on a side salad for dinner or come up with plan B. Thankfully everyone was nice about changing plans at the last minute to accommodate my crazy food challenges, so we ended up at Tiny Thai.

Thai vegetarian “duck” in chili basil sauce

I felt adventurous and went for the “Vegetarian Duck” in chili basil sauce. I figured it wasn’t something I was going to make at home, so I should try it. Delicious! Of course it didn’t have the same consistency as duck, but if you’re prepared for that and like seitan, it’s really good. (But I have to admit I did want a bite of Chris’s red snapper).

Vegan Week, Day 1

For the next seven days, I will do something I’ve never done before: eat like a vegan! I’m doing this for a few reasons. 1. If I’m going to be providing nutritional counseling in a few years, I want some first-hand experience under my belt. Not that I’m about to try to give myself diabetes so I can better understand what it’s like to eat in a way that manages it, but I think it would be helpful to know what it’s like to cook like a vegetarian or vegan, even briefly. 2. It’s summer, I have extra time on my hands, and I need something to challenge me to experiment with new recipes. And why vegan? Well, vegetarian’s just too easy for me. My diet isn’t very meat-heavy as it is, so it wouldn’t be a true challenge. So last night I opened my fridge, told my organic 1% milk, my feta cheese, and my free-range eggs to please not go bad, because I’d be back for them soon. And I headed off to the grocery store to equip myself for the next day.
Day 1: Breakfast
My go-to breakfast, especially on weekdays when I’m taking it to work, is greek yogurt with some variety of fruit and sometimes granola, wheat germ, oats, or cereal on top. So for my first morning I went for the vegan version: O’Soy vanilla yogurt with blueberries and sliced bananas, and an iced coffee with organic almond milk. I tried soy yogurt once a few years ago, when I lived with a lactose-intolerant roommate, and as far as I can remember I was not a fan. But Vegan Week is about experimentation, challenge, and giving things a second chance, so I was ready to try it again – although my expectations were not high for this breakfast.

O’Soy vanilla yogurt with blueberries & bananas

I also had a choice to make regarding milk for my coffee: soy, almond, or rice? Rice milk I thought would be too watery for coffee; I use 1% milk in my coffee, not whole or half and half, but I still like a hint of creaminess, and rice milk just doesn’t have it at all. I like soy milk, and the protein content is comparable to cow milk, but I used to be mildly allergic to it, and since I was already getting soy yogurt for breakfast, I figured I shouldn’t overdo it on the soy. Almond milk is lower in protein than soy, but it’s a great source of vitamins and minerals and I love the taste, so I went with Pacific organic unsweetened almond milk. The results? I was pleasantly surprised with the yogurt. It wasn’t the chalky gelatinous goo I remembered from years ago. It definitely didn’t taste like greek yogurt though, which is what I’m used to. It was very sweet and, to me, needed that tart element. I found some lime in the fridge and gave the yogurt a good squeeze of juice. Amazing! Now it tasted like key lime pie. I could eat this again. The almond milk formed a few strange lumps when it hit the coffee, and if I let it sit it would collect at the bottom, but it tasted fine. Not as creamy as 1% milk, but I like the subtle nutty flavor with the coffee.

Day 1: Lunch

Portobello mushroom burger

For lunch I made a grilled portobello mushroom “burger” with red peppers and arugula on farmer’s market whole wheat sourdough. I marinated the mushroom in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, dried oregano and basil, whole grain mustard, and black pepper, and then grilled it in a cast iron grill pan for about 8 minutes on each side. I quickly realized an open-faced sandwich with a knife and fork was the way to go with this one, considering the size of the mushroom. After putting the portobello on top of lightly toasted bread and topping it with the peppers and arugula, I drizzled the rest of the balsamic marinade over it. It was great, although I couldn’t help thinking it would have been truly fantastic with some goat cheese… hmm, is there a vegan goat cheese substitute?

Day 1: Dinner
Now here’s the catch: I knew going into this that I had dinner plans with my friend tonight, and the place we always go is Momofuku. It almost made me start Vegan Week tomorrow, but I knew that would be cheating because the whole point is to live my “normal” life while eating like a vegan. This friend is pescatarian (vegetarian but eats fish) though, so when I go there with her it’s not like we’re sharing giant slabs of pork belly anyway. So I survived not putting pork broth on my ginger scallion noodles, and I assumed (like a very, very bad vegan) that the shiitake buns do not contain animal products. The hard part was resisting special appetizers like charred octopus with fennel, yogurt, and grapefruit, or the carrot-ginger/cheesecake soft serve ice cream! But I did it. At least sake is vegan.

Momofuku shiitake bun and ginger scallion noodles