Monthly Archives: April 2012

getting back on track

I’m adjusting back into my normal routine and I’m not happy about it. Waking up at 5:45 am without the promise of a flight to San Francisco or a trip to Yosemite on the other end of things is just not fun. I arrived at work to a full inbox of 226 messages and I’m happy to report that it only took me an hour and a half to catch back up with my work life. My coworker handled all the urgent fires that came my way for the past week and for that, I owe her big! It’s bittersweet to be back home. I missed my kitties while I was vacationing but now I miss the bay, the sea, walking everywhere, getting a taste of city life…I truly hate living in the suburbs. I secretly wish my office would move to the city so it would make financial sense for me to move as well. Oh, woe. I love the city and I love the country but I do hate the ‘burbs. They’re sleepy and safe but lacking in the adventure department big time.

Being back means the bane of my existence: my sedentary commuter lifestyle. I am so inactive at home. I have nowhere to go and no excuse to get a good walk in anywhere. After work today, I threw myself a little pity party and skipped the gym and came home to enjoy a beer instead. This is a vice of mine. I’ve really got to find a happy medium. I’m too young to feel this old. I found a new gray hair in San Francisco and realized that time is ticking. I don’t want to wake up in ten years never having done any of the things I wanted to do. So, this means I’m currently in the throes of planning another trip–a long weekend around my birthday in July to visit friends who moved to Philly this past year. Flights into NYC are much cheaper than Philadelphia so we’ll meet them there, do a day in New York, and then take the bus to Philly for two or three days. It will be wonderful, and very cheap compared to our San Francisco trip. It gives me something wonderful to look forward to. It seems we all need plans to look forward to in order to get through the humdrum waiting game that most of our lives tend to be. These past two years since I’ve graduated have slipped by in record speed. My life is not very spontaneous. I sleep, wake, work, and sleep again. I’m lucky to have found an interest in cooking since adopting my vegan lifestyle, so that keeps things interesting on those days that I need a mini adventure. I’m hungry for more though. I want to be the interesting person I know I can be. I’d like to take up a new, creative hobby–knitting, perhaps? (With vegan yarn, of course.) Any suggestions are welcome. I used to consider myself artsy but lately the well has run dry.

I gained two pounds on vacation so I’m jumping back into my healthy eating/working out regimen tomorrow. I needed a couple of days to readjust before re-embarking on my journey. This means there should be new food pics and new recipes soon, with any luck. I have a list of veggies I want to try (chard comes to mind–I’ve never had it!) This will mean more frequent updates. And I should really look at registering for a 5k so I have a true goal to work toward on that front.

Did you ever take a trip that changed your life?

What were you like at age 24 (or if you’re younger than me–how do you hope to be at age 24)?

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I left my heart in San Francisco

My 7 day trip to San Francisco felt like a time warp. I’m back to the good ole flat Midwest but it seems like I’ve been gone but a day. The vacation wasn’t nearly long enough and unfortunately, a few things we’d planned got cut from the itinerary due to inclement weather, a city that doesn’t open any of its doors until 9 am, and the unforeseen fatigue of climbing SF’s (in)famous hilly terrain. I certainly didn’t plan on coming home with blistered feet. I’m sad to say there are several restaurants we didn’t make it to and sights we didn’t see–but I guess that means we’ll just have to return…one day.

I wasn’t able to photograph every vegan meal I enjoyed, but here is the highlight reel. It was easy to come by vegan food when you knew where you were going, but unfortunately it was slim pickings near our hotel in Union Square. We took the BART to the Mission almost daily just to eat. The Mission was the land of tofu scramble, vegan french toast, soyrizo burritos, fried seitan, and more–oh! so much more.

Have you ever gone on a vacation and felt pure relief when you arrive home because you don’t have to eat out anymore? Don’t get me wrong, I love to eat out, and the vegan options were plentiful, and the food was delicious–but something about it just wasn’t my home cooking. Pre-vegan me hated cooking so this feeling is brand new to me. The seitan was too fried and the scramble wasn’t seasoned just right. Delicious, but I’m glad I can once again take control of my meals. All I want to do is go to the grocery store and pick up my essentials and get cooking!

Berkeley Vegan Pizza from ZPizza. This was one of the two nights that we ordered delivery because we were exhausted and it was late. Unfortunately, it seems that San Francisco restaurants do not stay open late so it wasn’t easy to order delivery past 9 pm. I found this very odd because we were in the center of downtown. It was nothing like NYC or even Chicago. I suppose that’s all part of the laid back California lifestyle.

While we’re on the topic of vegan pizza and delivery, we also ordered from Patxi’s Pizza. This was every bit as delicious as it looks. I don’t think even my own city could design such a delicious vegan Chicago-style deep dish pizza. I don’t think even I could! It’s now on my list of meals to tackle. We both really enjoyed this.

Herbivore, you slayed me with your delicious 100% vegan menu. We went to Herbivore for breakfast not once, not twice, but three times (a lady). We went to both locations–one in the Mission and one a block from Alamo Square. Pictured above is the combo breakfast–vegan french toast, vegan scramble, and potatoes–followed by the tempeh “BLT.” Both were absolutely scrumptious.

Vegan breakfast burrito from Sunrise Restaurant. This was my first (but not last!) soyrizo burrito. It was fabulous and hit the spot. This was not a fully vegan restaurant, so the boyfriend was able to order eggs. My coffee came with regular cream. I didn’t inquire about whether or not they had soy milk because I sincerely doubted it, so I drank my coffee black. It was strong, just how I like it.

Since we’re on the topic of burritos, let’s talk about Papalote. We went to the Mission location and this was, by far, the most delicious burrito I have ever had. It, too, was a soyrizo burrito, and their beans and rice are 100% vegan, as is their DELICIOUS salsa. It looked too creamy to be vegan but it was. Om nom nom. I almost died and went to heaven when I ate this burrito. The restaurant was small and reminded me a little bit of Chipotle, so I was shocked at how good and authentic it was. I would go back to SF just to eat at Papalote. No joke.

Our hotel was just a block from Chinatown, so of course we had to eat some delicious authentic Chinese. The SF Chinatown has the second largest Chinese population outside of China. We stumbled upon this restaurant by pure chance. On our way home from our Yosemite tour, I saw the sign–Loving Hut, 100% vegan. We decided to check it out after our Anchor Brewing Company tour. It turns out that this is a chain with several locations, so this might not be the last time I meet 100% vegan Chinese food! Pictured above is Thai “fishless” curry, spring rolls, and a vegan thai iced tea. I won’t lie to you, we were not sober when we ate here, so I can’t remember much about the food. The boyfriend really claims to have enjoyed his vegan burger, though:

The aforementioned brewery. Every beer brewed by Anchor is vegan, and you get to taste 7 following the brewery tour. The brewery is located near the Mission/Potrero Hill. It’s a hike to get to but totally worth it. I enjoyed every single beer. The tour reservations fill up fast and they’re currently booked through July, so if you ever make it to SF, make sure to book your tour well in advance.

This, my friends, was what I was the most excited for. This tiny little restaurant, called Dante’s Weird Fish, serves fried seitan with vegan buffalo sauce, vegan chipotle sauce, and vegan ranch. It was super fried but really hit the spot. It’s very small and we heard they get really busy at lunch and dinner time, so we made sure to stop in around 3 pm for a late lunch one day. It was fabulous. We also devoured a serving of vegan cheesecake, which I was too busy nomming to photograph. So. freakin’. good.

Other notable vegan eats: Ike’s Place, where I ordered the “meatless mike” and asked for it to be made vegan. They have a vegetarian menu and you can order any of the sandwiches vegan (with daiya cheese/vegan mayo/etc.). We waited in a long line out the door in unheard of 80 degree SF weather and then had to find a park to eat our sandwiches. We had to climb two extremely steep hills to get to Buena Vista Park. By that time, we were starving, tired, sweaty, and my sandwich didn’t look nearly as appetizing as it really was–so no photo for that.

It’s also worth mentioning that if you ever find yourself walking through the entire length of Golden Gate Park all the way to Ocean Beach, you can order a vegan veggie dog at the hot dog vendors. You’ll pay a ridiculous sum of $5, but if you’re extra nice, they might just cook it in clean water for you. You can also order veggie dogs at the Coliseum in Oakland, where we attended about half of an A’s game. Attending a baseball game at that stadium was very weird. I’ve never been to a Chicago ballgame that wasn’t totally sold out, but this place was so empty. Do they even have fans? (We would’ve seen a Giants game instead had they been in town this past week.)

It’s not easy to find vegan fare in Fisherman’s Wharf. Allegedly you can order a vegan potato at Hot Spud but I didn’t try. You can, however, get a free biscoff cookie at the Biscoff stand with any coffee purchase. The lack of vegan food was made up for by the sea lions, I s’pose.

The food court at Yosemite, however, does have vegan options–their menu tells you exactly what is vegan and exactly what is gluten-free. I was happy for that. After a day of hiking to the Sequoias and driving to all the vantage points, I was dying for some filling vegan food. I was able to get some tortilla soup and a vegan hummus plate with fresh veggies and pitas before the four hour bus ride home. Yum!

The city was beautiful and I certainly ate my way through it. Now it’s back to the grind.

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San Francisco, here I come!

This may well be my final blog post before I leave for my trip. Our flight is at 8:35 am at good ole Midway Airport on Saturday morning. This means we’ll be up at the sun-shiney hour of 5 am. Oh boy! I should be packing but I’ll let you in on a little secret: I am terrible at packing. I am usually terrible at planning for vacation in general. This time, however, I have researched San Francisco to the point of feeling as though I could legit pass a culture and geography exam. Yesterday I was so tired–my eyes were burning from hours staring at a computer screen just reading and reading for the past week. Did you ever study super hard for an exam in high school or college and then reach the point of no return? Where you still have, say, 2 hours before the exam, but you feel like your brain couldn’t possibly hold any more information so you decide to take those 2 hours to breathe and then just show up and wing it? That’s pretty much how I feel. I couldn’t possibly read another article about the city. I’m ready to go!

All it comes down to now is the whole packing thing. Tomorrow after work, I will be a busy bee. I have to drop off my beautiful little kitties at my parents’ house, which means they kind of get their own little vacation, and then it’s time to finish packing and then the waiting game begins. I will probably not get a wink of sleep, which is kind of a major bummer seeing as I find it impossible to sleep on planes–and then we’ll be gaining two hours. I imagine I’ll be feeling pure exhaustion by 5 pm Saturday. I probably should have planned a more lowkey day but I’m anticipating getting a second wind after we land. We plan on seeing Haight Ashbury, the Twin Peaks, Golden Gate Park, the remains of the Sutro Bathhouse, and nomming some delicious vegan cuisine at the very least on Saturday. We’ll see where else we end up. The real fun, and the part I’m most excited about, is our daytrip to Yosemite on Monday. It will be a long, long day. It’s really the whole reason we’re going to San Francisco in the first place. I’m a sucker for natural beauty and mountainous terrain.

I almost feel guilty for not working out at all this week, and I know I’ll feel extreme guilt when I indulge in delicious food and drink, but it should all balance out given the amount of walking we’ll be doing. We’re going to try to walk everywhere, except for through the gritty, seedy parts. There’s transit for that. Sore legs and tired feet, here we come!

I’m hoping to have lots to report on all the delicious vegan food I eat. I’ve pinpointed all the restaurants I want to try and, god willing, I should have some delicious-looking food pics when I return. Until then, stay classy!

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not a city girl

I am about to come across as the most privileged, most sheltered, most suburban, most ignorant white girl you may have ever heard. Consider yourself forewarned.

I want to preface this post by stating that I live in the far suburbs of Chicago. Some Chicagoans wouldn’t even consider my town a suburb, I’d venture to bet. I have lived here all my life. When I went to college, I went two hours south to a relatively rural location (comparatively). While I’ve lived 40 miles west of Chicago my entire life, I really don’t make it to the city much. I don’t have any friends who live in the city. For all intents and purposes, whenever I’ve gone into the city, I’ve lived very much the life of a tourist. Typical city day for us: ride the Metra to Ogilvie Station. Walk east. End up at Grant Park/Millenium Park/State Street/Michigan Avenue/Adler Plantarium/Field Musem/Aquarium. Grab lunch/dinner. Walk back to the train. Depart city.

Really, I can count on two hands the amount of times that I’ve entered the city and my experience differed from the above: sure, I’ve been to my fair share of Cubs games. I’ve been to Hawks and Bulls games. I’ve been to the Briar Street Theater. I’ve been to Union Park for Pitchfork. I’ve been to concerts at the Aragon, the Riviera, the Chicago Theater. But by and large, my Chicago visits have been to the same general area. Yes, there are homeless people in abundance. But there are always so many people on the street that I have never felt unsafe. Every morning I listen to the news on my way to work and every day, there’s been a new murder or 10. I keep hearing how our crime rate is increasing. The difference is I know not to go to the crime-ridden areas. Crime can happen anywhere but there are certain areas to stay away from, and I do. In short, I’ve never been in a situation where I really felt fear in Chicago.

I never considered myself so painfully suburban, however, until the past few days. I’ve been researching San Francisco, as we leave for our trip Saturday, and my eyes have been forced open. The crime rate in San Francisco is absolutely, frighteningly high. This is something I didn’t know until we were discussing our trip with my boyfriend’s mom and she made an offhand remark–“just be careful, San Francisco has an incredibly high crime rate.” When we left, we discussed her comment in the car. Was she serious? San Francisco, in my mind’s eye, is full of either a) peace-loving, 4/20-friendly hippie wannabes or b) incredibly successful businesspeople. I googled it. I found out that not only was his mom absolutely right, but our hotel–the hotel I was so excited about–was smack dab in the center of it all.

What’s funny about all of this is that I used to work at a publishing company that printed community guidebooks. I was promoted to staff writer and the first book I got to write was the San Francisco book. I did a lot of research, obviously. I never came across anything like what I’ve come across in the past few days…not that they’d want us to print “the truth” in a book targeting tourists and new residents, anyway.

When I booked my hotel, I knew the neighborhood I wanted. I didn’t want to stay in the Fisherman’s Wharf because I thought I was too cool to succumb to staying in an area so touristy. I was aiming for either the Haight or Nob Hill. The hotel I found was in Nob Hill (or so I thought)…it wasn’t until yesterday that I realized, in actuality, the hotel was in the “Tender Nob”–Lower Nob Hill, where Nob Hill turns into the Tenderloin. For anyone unfamiliar, the Tenderloin has one of, if not the, highest crime rate in the city. I’ve combed through blog posts and informative articles–and even seen photographic evidence–of hypodermic needles in the street, people exposing themselves and pissing on buildings in broad daylight. I found an interactive crime map. Behold:

That big red area is mostly comprised of the Tenderloin and Soma neighborhoods, but also bleeds into the Civic Center/Downtown/Chinatown/Union Square areas as well.

Needless to say, I started to feel really pathetic. Here I was, wanting an “authentic” San Francisco experience. I wanted (and still want) to take transit like a local instead of renting a car. I want to walk everywhere I can. I want to experience the city on foot because one of its hallmarks is its walkable, pedestrian-friendly nature. In my head, I had this idyllic vision that we would leave our hotel in the morning and pick a direction and just start walking. I’ve always refrained from carrying large purses when I walk around in the city for fear of being pickpocketted or mugged–but that’s Chicago. I didn’t think this would be like Chicago. I thought I could carry my big bag with my expensive camera and not worry about being bothered.

I never used to fear this. In fact, I visited Paris when I was 16 for a class trip and my mom made me buy one of those tourist wallets you wear under your shirt to keep your passport and money safe–and I thought she was ridiculous. I wasn’t once hassled in Paris, aside from a few gypsies in the Latin Quarter and a few bracelet-making African implants in Montmatre. By and large, even in a foreign country, I’ve just never really felt unsafe. And now I do. From the stories I’ve read, I’m just a little scared. The reason the crime spills into Downtown/Union Square is, in my assessment, because that’s where the majority of the hotels are located. Hotels = tourists = naive, vulnerable rich people. Easy targets. And I’m going to be one of them (except the joke’s on them because I’m flat broke!)

We’ve already switched hotels once but we’re still only about a block from that big red area on the map. I have half a mind to give up my original plan and pick yet another hotel in the Fisherman’s Wharf. I just don’t want to spend my entire vacation afraid. I don’t want to be afraid to walk back to my hotel at night. I don’t want to feel afraid on the Muni or the BART. I should have known, I guess, that this is the price you pay for staying downtown. Had I been smart, or rich, maybe we would’ve stayed in Sausalito and commuted into the city via ferry each day. But it’s too late for that now.

A city is a city is a city. I should’ve known. I remember being shocked at how many homeless people hung out near the touristy 16th Street Mall in Denver. I should have expected the same experience.

Sadly, I think I’m too suburban for this shit. My bark was much bigger than my bite. Here I go, tail between my legs, to peruse the Fisherman’s Wharf hotel listings once more…

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pasta so easy it hurts!

We’re leaving for vacation on Saturday so I’m trying to use the food in the house and not make too many grocery purchases before we go. I hate wasting food and I also realized how much mula we’ll be spending in San Francisco, so I’ve had to get a little creative in the kitchen with the little bit that I have on hand. This means pasta–because pasta is cheap, fast, easy, and you don’t need much to make it pretty delicious.

I experimented with adding nutritional yeast to a quick “buttered” noodles recipe last night. It was so yummy that I replicated the pasta again tonight, this time adding broccoli (I was low on veggies the night before and the pasta was really missing something without the veg component!)

Vegan Buttered Noodles with Nooch
Serves 2-3

Whole wheat shells ( about 1/3 of a standard box of pasta)
1-2 tbsp Earth Balance
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tbsp oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
1-2 tsp coarse ground black pepper
salt to taste
1 crown broccoli (or whatever veggies you feel like adding–zucchini comes to mind as a great alternative)

Prepare pasta per box instructions. I steamed my broccoli in the microwave while the pasta was cooking but you could stirfry your veggies with a bit of oil just as well. After straining pasta, add broccoli, earth balance and stir until melty. Add seasonings, stir, and voila!

This meal takes literally no time and requires no preparation whatsoever. It’s so simple, so easy, so cheap, and so good. My boyfriend, who previously thought that nutritional yeast smelled not unlike feet, thought this was fantastic…and I did too!

shnoodles, minus the broccoli. without the veggies, it looks a little like a fancier version of mac ‘n cheese

shnoodles WITH broccoli. ah…much better

What’s your go-to pasta recipe?

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fancy oatmeal

How do I love thee, oatmeal? Let me count the ways.

Oatmeal is a staple in my diet. It’s a great place to hide ground flaxseed to ensure that us non-animal-product-eating peeps get the necessary omega fatty acids. Not only that, oats are pretty cheap (especially when bought in the bulk section of your local grocery store), they’re a great source of fiber (the serving I ate today provided 1/5 of my daily fiber intake–and that wasn’t even counting all the fixins I added to it!), and as such, oatmeal is also quite filling. Most importantly, the serving options are endless! You can dress it up or dress it down. I love a solid oatmeal with a pinch of brown sugar during the week, but when I’m feeling adventurous and I have a few more calories to spare on the weekend, it’s great to dress it up with whatever I have on hand. Oatmeal has no prejudices: it gladly mingles with granola, nuts, fruit, almond/soy/whatever nondairy milk pleases you most. The opportunities are endless.

I have rekindled my love for oatmeal due to a few rushed mornings this week. I didn’t have anything on hand to bring with me for breakfast so I stopped down at my office cafeteria to pick up some oatmeal. I don’t often visit the office cafeteria because a) the vegan options are limited and b) it’s a $$$$ drain. 95% of the time, I bring my breakfasts and lunches from home. The office cafeteria, funny enough, was the first time I ever tasted steel cut oats (this was a few months ago). Steel cut oats have become my oatmeal variety of choice ever since. My two oatmeal mornings during the week left me really craving what I’m going to fondly refer to as fancy oatmeal this morning. This variation was simply divine.

Fancy Oatmeal

Whatcha need:

1 3/4 cups water
1/3 + 2 tbsp steel cut oats (I have Quaker on hand but once I run out, I plan on experimenting with other brands)
1 banana
1 tsp earth balance
1 tsp virgin coconut oil (you can skip this part, this was really just for fun as I haven’t found a reason to use my coconut oil yet)
1 splash vanilla extract
1/4 cup walnut pieces (or nuts of you’re choosing)
1 tbsp ground flaxseed
a few teaspoons brown sugar
shredded coconut to taste

Get your water boiling on the stove and then add oats. The measurements I provided were straight from the Quaker label–if you’re using a different brand, your measurements may vary. After you add the oats, it’ll take about 25 minutes on the stove top for the oatmeal to cook. Stir occasionally.

In the meantime, slice your banana into small pieces. Toss with a tsp or two of brown sugar. Melt earth balance (and optional, coconut oil) in a frying pan and add bananas. Fry for 3-5 minutes until bananas have caramelized. **as mentioned, I don’t really know if this is an appropriate use of coconut oil, but I have yet to use it in the kitchen and I wanted to experiment. It certainly didn’t hurt matters and it added a little bit of a coconutty taste to the bananas. Plus, it smells like the tropics and that is a fabulous smell in the kitchen of a midwestern apartment-dweller.

When the oatmeal and bananas are done, add the rest of your fixins: flaxseed, brown sugar, shredded coconut, walnuts, vanilla, and finally, bananas. Had I any fresh nondairy milk on hand, I’d have added a splash to the finished product. This is especially nice if you overcook the oatmeal because it adds a little moisture. This oatmeal has a wonderful medley of flavors that can totally stand on its own two feet without the addition of milk, though.

you might want to engage in some light morning stretching before digging in

Enjoy, and reap the rewards of its energy-inducing properties immediately. Happy Saturday!

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no use crying over spilt lentils

I spilled a quarter of a bag of lentils on my (filthy) kitchen floor tonight while preparing dinner. #veganproblems

The cats thought it was great fun to frolic through the lentil mess while I scrambled to find my trusty broom and dust pan. I probably could’ve scooped them all up, rinsed, and life would’ve gone forth as usual, but I really don’t trust the state of my kitchen floor. Into the garbage they went. What a sad day.

As far as diet and exercise goes, it’s been a frustrating week. I’ve been uber stressed at work and as the emotional eater I am, this has translated into a) skipping the gym and b) eating lots of sweets. I have no excuse for my behavior. I think I need to accomplish two things in the very near future:

1) I need to bring more fruit and veggies to snack on at work because I find I am ravenous upon arriving home and will literally sit down and eat just about anything in unimaginable quantities.

and 2) I need to find ways to add activity into my daily life outside of my organized cardio routine to offset the extra calories I’ll be consuming through snackage.

I eat an incredibly healthy diet 80% of the time. I am not one of those people that hates fruit and veggies. I adore them. I eat them daily, in large quantities. But I also have a sweet tooth and enjoy sugary treats the way Paula Deen enjoys butter. I sooth my bad days with candy and $4.50 soy lattes. I sometimes think I’m an addict of sorts. Depending on the stage of my life I’m referring to, I can pinpoint exactly what I used as a soothing agent: lately, it’s been food. But there have been times *cough*mylastyearofcollege*cough* that it was more the booze-sooth. I can be a junkie for just about anything. People say it takes a lot of willpower to be a vegetarian or a vegan, which I’ve been able to demonstrate, but the willpower required to stay away from sweets is a brand of willpower I have yet to perfect the art of.

I spend a lot of time thinking about and complaining about my dreaded sedentary deskjob life. The truth is, I can bitch about it all I want but if I want to be able to stay on top of my bills, I have to accept this fate. I’ve been reading lots of stats lately that 1 in 3 adults are overweight or obese in this country but when I look around at my friends, peers, coworkers, it seems very few are struggling with the affliction I struggle with. I have a really hard time noticing how damned skinny my coworkers are and it doesn’t even really seem like they’re trying. You get really cozy-close with coworkers: you see them eat, you hear them talk about their personal lives, and it seems to me that no one thinks about food or exercise at the rate it’s always weighing on my mind. Of course, I’m no mind reader. I could be very wrong about their struggles. To the untrained eye, though, I see myself struggling and I see everyone else going out to lunch, eating high calorie meals, and not. getting. fat.

Part of my problem is laziness, I think. I don’t want to have to try. When I do try, I don’t see results so I lose my drive. I need to be held accountable. Convincing my boyfriend to be active with me and thusly, hold me accountable, has been a struggle. We both would rather sit on the couch and talk about changing rather than actually change. I find I’m not so much in love with my life these days. These are those trying times when I go into hiding. In fight or flight, I’m definitely flight.

I never thought I’d have a blog I stuck with because I never thought I had enough interesting information to convey to the outside world. I still don’t really have anything of interest to convey…but regardless, I’m enjoying being part of the conversation.

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philly cheeze “steak”

Do you ever crave comfort food on Mondays? I know I do–which isn’t saying much, because it seems that I crave comfort food always.

I’ve never eaten a philly cheesesteak, so in all likelihood, the recipe below will bear zero resemblance to any philly cheesesteak you’ve ever eaten. Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe my instincts were spot on and your bad vegan self can get down with cheesesteak once again! Regardless of how cheesesteak-y this meal truly was, I can tell you one thing: it was delicious.

I told my boyfriend that this recipe came to me in a dream, which is only half a lie: I was daydreaming about food at work and then this pang for something–I wasn’t quite sure what–hit me. Suddenly, A1 steak sauce sounded divine.

But steak sauce! you cry. That’s not vegan! In fact, it is. Though many steak sauces use Worcestershire, which isn’t vegan, this one does not. I’m finding more and more that the seasonings, rubs, and sauces we use to prepare meat–the very tastes I have always associated with meat–are incredibly meat, dairy, and egg-free much of the time.

I first discovered this when I had to try my hand at making a homemade taco seasoning because the storebought seasoning packet contained a milk derivative. I had no idea, before that fateful day, that I could season soy crumbles with anything to make them taste so meat-like. And then the light bulb turned on. Much like we season veggies to taste good, we season meat. Honestly, a decaying slab of dead flesh couldn’t possibly taste good without help. This sounds like a no-brainer, but for years, the tastes of certain spices and sauces were the taste of meat to me. I couldn’t tell you anymore what meat in its unseasoned state tastes like. Taco meat tastes like cumin. Steak tastes like A1, or cracked peppercorn. I’m starting to have some fun in the kitchen with this concept. A1! Not just for steak anymore!

Maybe what I created in the kitchen tonight was more of a simple “steak” sandwich, but I used a heaping amount of cheeze so I’m going with the philly cheesesteak theme.

Philly Cheeze Seitan
serves 2

2 sub rolls
1 package seitan
1/2 green bell pepper, sliced
1/4 to 1/2 yellow onion, or onion of your choosing, sliced
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp veg oil for frying
a generous dose of A1 steak sauce
a generous amount of Daiya pepperjack cheeze
approx. 1 tbsp Vegenaise, spread on one side of each sub roll

Preheat oven to 400. Slice sub rolls in half lengthwise and set them aside on a pan. Slice your veggies and warm your oil in a frying pan. Sautee green pepper and onion in oil and garlic for a few minutes. Add crumbled (or sliced) seitan and continue to fry.

Add as much A1 as your heart desires.

When veggies are to your liking and seitan is heated through, scoop onto one side of each sub roll.

Add as much daiya as your digestive tract can handle.  Bake for 5-10 minutes until daiya is melted.

Spread a thin layer of vegenaise on the top portion of each bun, cut in half, and chow down!

Instead of the cheeze + vegenaise combo, you can be more ambitious than I was and turn your daiya into a cheeze sauce. You just need a little bit of earth balance, a little bit of plain soy milk, and a lot of cheeze.

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scramble in the morning, scramble in the evening…

scramble at supper time… when tofu’s in your scramble, you can eat scramble any time!

I’m well aware that tofu scramble is a tried-and-true, and frankly, quite boring meal. Every vegan has their tofu scramble. Ho hum, nothing new here. I know this, yet I am going to write about tofu scramble for at least the second time, because I have recently discovered a product that takes tofu scramble from drab to fab!

I have already written about the fantastic health food store I stumbled upon last weekend, The Fruitful Yield. I had to make my second trip today because I needed a few things–and really, I just wanted to explore again. It’s amazing how I intend on picking up one item and I walk out with a full bag-o’-stuffs. It’s just hard to resist temptation when they have so many items I haven’t found anywhere else. I picked up three (THREE!) packages of the Upton’s Naturals seitan because at $3.09 a pack (I think prices went down?), it’s just impossible to beat. West Soy retails around here for about $7 per pack. I cannot resist a delicious, locally-owned company that puts out a wonderful seitan for over half the price. Just can’t do it!

I also walked out with cultured almond milk yogurt, pepperjack daiya (which I absolutely didn’t need, but it was there…and I’ve never seen it before in the flesh!), and two larabars (also didn’t need…but my boyfriend seemed pretty excited about the find so it was hard to say no). My total was only $20. I think that’s pretty rad. They also have vegan parmesan which I resisted the urge to buy–but good to know that it’s there! I find new things each visit I make.

The second grocery store we went to had more fantastic deals like 4 for $5 mangos, 3 kiwis for $1, discount walnut halves, the list could go on. I’m a very happy vegan today. I also recently stumbled upon a local farmstand that is open on Saturdays starting in May. The only Farmer’s Market I know of is only held on Fridays, which is a major bummer considering it’s a one block walk from me and I never get to check it out because of my work schedule. But finding this farm is really great news. I can’t wait to check out some locally grown organic veggies in just a month!

So let me get back to my point: this Upton’s Naturals chorizo-flavored seitan is what has taken my tofu scramble from drab to fab. I have made two scrambles this week, which shouldn’t be surprising if you’ve been following this blog–I tend to overdo foods I love, and seitan has quickly become one of my favorite meat replacements. I am guilty of frequently eating tofu scramble for dinner and then reheating the leftovers for breakfast (sometimes for a few days, depending on how much I cook at any given time). I’m a big advocate of planned leftovers. It makes the next day so easy! Completely takes the stress out of figuring out your meals for the day.

Without further ado, I call this simple scramble the This Is My Everest Seitan Scramble.

serves 3-4, or more!

1 block extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
1 package Upton’s Naturals chorizo-style seitan
1 bell pepper, sliced
1 crown broccoli cut into florets
1/4 to 1/2 yellow onion, diced
4-5 squirts Braggs liquid aminos
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp veg oil, for frying
optional: baby spinach leaves or other green leafy veg

You know the tofu scramble drill: warm your oil, fry your veggies and seitan for a few minutes, crumble the tofu, spray your Braggs, add your seasonings, and fry until your veggies are at desired consistency (I like mine slightly crisp) and tofu is heated through and uniformly seasoned. Tada!

pre-tofu. I won’t lie to you, I nearly considered eating as is because the seitan is that good

the turmeric and nooch give it that yellowy egg-like color

If you’re a single person like myself, you’ll have leftovers for the next several breakfasts. If you’re feeding others, this should satisfy a family of four. My boyfriend doesn’t like his veggies as crisp as I like mine, so the good news is this scramble is all mine. 🙂

it’s even carnivore-approved!

I’m thoroughly convinced my cats don’t even know what meat is. Whenever my boyfriend does happen to eat meat here and tries to give the cats a taste, they just sort of look at it and push it around with their paws. However, whenever there’s seitan in the house, they know something’s up! That’s how meat-like this product is. The texture is the best part: if you’ve ever eaten true Wisconsin cheese curds, it’s kinda like that. It almost squeaks when you bite into it. It’s a very appetizing texture. Don’t take it from me, though! Eat some seitan already! Your tummy will thank me.

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c25k update

I’ve been cooking new meals but I have neglected to take any decent photos, so this post will not be about that. But for the record, I made vegan stroganoff this week (very tasty!), and caribbean coconut rice w/ chickpeas and broccoli (this was tasty but I sort of ruined it by adding a touch too much cayenne pepper–my mouth was on fire! I also don’t think I’m a big fan of ginger and this called for a whole tbsp of ground ginger). I used my Upton’s Naturals chorizo seitan for the MOST delicious tofu scramble I’ve cooked to date. I wish I had photos! It was to die for. It was the talk of work when I brought my leftovers for breakfast. I love when my coworkers are intrigued by my meals. They are always telling me how delicious my food looks and smells, and they’re always shocked to find out the ingredients. One of my coworkers even told me I’ve inspired her to include more veggies into her meals. I love that! 🙂

I’m chugging along with the c25k program. I decided to abandon the regimen and go it alone. I finally “graduated” week 5, finally running 20 minutes straight. I’ve really, really slowed my pace, which I’m okay with. Speed and time will come later. Right now, I’m really just trying to bump up my endurance. Being able to run for 20 minutes was a huge accomplishment for me, even if my pace is barely a step above a brisk walk. I’m going to try to add a couple minutes to each run until I get to 30 minutes. Then I’ll start bumping up my speed by a tenth of a MPH until I get back up to my original pace. I will get there. I will not give up. (However, I only ran twice this week and only worked out three times total. My boss let us leave an hour and a half early yesterday and I decided to go home and relax rather than go to the gym…and then I ate way too much food and called it a day.) I’m taking my run outside today for the first time. I’m anticipating crashing and burning. It’s much easier on a treadmill. We’ll see how it goes. I’m lucky I live in the great-freakin’-plains and I won’t be dealing with any inclines. Just flat terrain here in Illinois.

We’re leaving for San Francisco on April 21. For anyone who’s been: what restaurants do you suggest for vegans? I plan on doing some research but I thought I’d mention it here in case anyone has any brilliant suggestions.

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