Tag Archives: vegan pizza

When in Philadelphia…eat all of the vegan food

Greetings, folks! We returned yesterday from our eastern seaboard adventure. We decided to keep our summer vacation cheap and simple by visiting friends in Philadelphia. Driving the 13 hours and sleeping on our friends’ trundle bed proved to be the most fiscally efficient way to get out of town for a few days, and it made for quite the vegan adventure. Can I just say that I loved Pennsylvania way more than I anticipated? Largely this is due to the complete lack of research I did (I am a control freak and I plan our vacation itineraries to a T–but since we were visiting friends, I relinquished my inner control freak and got to do this crazy thing called “going with the flow”). The small amount of research I did do before we embarked on our journey was to scout out some restaurants along the way where we could pick up some filling vegan fare. Man oh man, did I luck out.

I didn’t take as many photos as I normally do on vacation, but what I lack in pictures I will try to make up for in vivid descriptions of the sumptuous fare I indulged in. Let’s start from the beginning: I packed a lot of vegan snacks for the road. Bananas, clementines, pumpkin clusters, cashews, and clif bars, oh my! Unfortunately that was where the healthy eating began and ended. I indulged in so much fatty delicious food that I fear it will take me a month to burn off all those excess calories. Point in case, I nearly croaked during my treadmill run today after my week of splurging.

Cleveland

Drew Carey would have you believe that Cleveland rocks, and while I can’t say definitively that it doesn’t, it was definitely the low point of our trip. We arrived in Cleveland at about 11:30 pm eastern time. We intended on waking up around 7 so we could make it to Cleveland Heights to grab breakfast at one of the few restaurants in the area that offers vegan breakfast substitutions, Tommy’s, but 7 turned into 8 and we didn’t hit the road til 9. By the time our not-so-trusty GPS navigated us to Cleveland Heights, it was already 9:30, and we didn’t exactly have time to linger over breakfast. We wanted to check out the Cleveland Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but breakfast took longer than we’d anticipated so we didn’t get to spend near enough time in the museum. I’d go back just to do the museum again, but there didn’t seem to be much else in town to warrant a second trip.

Tofu scramble with fruit and dry wheat toast at Tommy’s

The tofu scramble was okay but the broccoli was a little on the (monstrously) large side. It was a good, hearty breakfast before the second leg of our journey, though.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame entrance. I don’t know what the plaque below the guitar said, but the building is sort of reminiscent of the Louvre, no?

The line for tickets was crazy long and we sped through the museum like it was our job. We picked up some collectibles on our way out (a shot glass for him, a pint glass for me) and were back on the road by noon.

Philadelphia

I expected Philly to be dingy and gross, thanks to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. In fact, it wasn’t (at least, Center City wasn’t). The best part is how vegan-friendly this city is. Even the most carnivorous of restaurants has at least one vegan option, for the most part. I’m always surprised by that as I hail from a very un-vegan friendly suburb of Chicago. We arrived around 6:30 pm and immediately set out to one of our friends’ favorite restaurants, Wrap Shack. I ordered the vegan volcano on a spinach wrap (not pictured, due to my excitement and ravishing hunger) and DAMN was it delicious. Black bean hummus is apparently a thing, and a delicious thing at that. We shared a pitcher of Yuengling, which might not be a vegan beer, but I’m less anal about that. We needed a drink and we wanted to have an authentic ole time in Pennsylvania.

We wound up at several bars that night and drank all of the beer in sight. Center City at night on a Saturday is just lovely and we had a blast.

We ended up at a bar called BAR (insert hipster joke about how it’s so cool that you’ve probably never heard of it) where “pickleback” shots are the specialty. I was too chicken to try one but it’s just a shot of whiskey chased by a shot of pickle juice. Our more courageous friends tried it and said it was delicious.

Sunday was my birthday and we spent it at a Phillies game, followed by a trip to a few bars and brew pubs. Monday, both of our friends were working so we spent the hot-as-balls day in Old City checking out all the historical sights, including the Liberty Bell and Ben Franklin’s grave. But first! We went to Green Eggs Cafe, where I had the most delicious tofu scramble to date (not pictured) which was served with rosemary potatoes. I would go back to Philadelphia just for those potatoes. No joke.

We made a pitstop at an all-vegan pizzeria after touring Old City, which was kind of sketchy but hit the spot.

Daiya and seitan pepperoni pizza

Before leaving Tuesday morning, we stopped at Greens Eggs Cafe again and I had some delicious vegan french toast that rivals that of Herbivore in San Francisco.

This came with non-dairy whipped cream and strawberry deliciousness. (This one isn’t served with rosemary potatoes, so we shared an order, obviously.)

Gettysburg and Pittsburgh

We decided to stay in Pittsburgh on the way back to attend a Pirates vs. Cubs game. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it, but my boyfriend’s life goal is to tour every ball park in America. Every city we go to, we either attend a game or a ballpark tour if the team is traveling. We had great seats in left field, three rows up, and a home run was caught four people down in our row. So, I was even on TV! How’s that for exciting?

Before Pittsburgh, we stopped in Gettysburg for about an hour and toured the battlefield. It was interesting and I’m glad we made it there.

We didn’t have time for vegan food pit stops in Pittsburgh, aside from some game time food…

Don’t let the name fool you: these are just fries seasoned with Old Bay. We first discovered Old Bay seasoned food in Philly and apparently, it travels as far west as Pittsburgh. They serve the fries with a cheesey sauce that I obviously didn’t eat. I think I need to buy some Old Bay!

While we didn’t have a proper meal, we did hang out at a couple of bars after the game. Penn Pilsner is pretty delicious, I found out, and Iron City isn’t so much. As we were driving back to our hotel, we somehow ended up at a casino (my first time) and apparently, I’m pretty good at Roulette. We each decided to play with just $20 and we won $30. I said I’d never go to a casino but somehow, after a few drinks, I was convinced. When in Rome…

And that was that. Sweet home Chicago was ours for the taking again at around 4 pm yesterday, and I went back to work today. So much good food, so much great beer, and so much fun with friends. We can’t wait to travel again. It was a whirlwind!

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vegan eats: a less-than-enthused review of California Pizza Kitchen

This weekend has been especially emotionally taxing so I’ve been finding comfort in food. I had a really irritating encounter at California Pizza Kitchen yesterday that I will write about only briefly as it really gets my knickers in a twist when I think about it.

We (my boyfriend and I) had some errands to run yesterday afternoon and we found ourselves out in public and hungry. We don’t eat out much anymore because of my vegan thing (and for budgetary reasons) but he said he really had a taste for California Pizza Kitchen. I’ve never been big on CPK and have only been a handful of times (we actually had one of our first “dates” there, and it’s probably only one of three times I’ve ever been). They have the menu posted outside and a quick glance showed me that I probably don’t have many options. I decided I’d just figure it out when we got inside.

They were kind of busy so I took to my phone to google “vegan CPK options” to see if anything would come up. To my absolute delight and surprise, CPK has a wonderful PDF guide to all vegetarian and vegan menu offerings. I started to feel much better and I wondered why all chain restaurants don’t do the same. I quickly located a few things I could order (with substitutions, of course) and noticed that the guide seems to be written for employees, so I sort of assumed maybe this is something the waitstaff and kitchenstaff are trained on: how to accommodate guests with dietary restrictions (either by allergies or by choice). I know nothing about the serving industry but it seems to me that restaurant staff, especially for chain restaurants that have lots of corporate rules and regulations, should be educated on these things because they are the difference between someone with a peanut allergy enjoying their meal safely or becoming deathly ill during their visit. (I realize now that my mistake here was comparing allergies to choices, but I still stand firm that the staff should be aware of different diets.)

But I digress. We were off to a bad start with the waitress from the get-go. I knew I should have just ordered the roasted vegetable salad with fat-free balsamic instead of messing with a pizza…but my desire for pizza got the better of me. I recited my order per the vegan guide: “Can I have the japanese vegetarian eggplant pizza, no cheese, on thin crust?” They have three crusts: regular, wholegrain honey, and thin. Thin is the only vegan crust and can be subbed in for any pizza on the menu for $1.50. I was willing to do this, of course. After I ordered, she asked “regular or wholegrain?” I was confused because I had just said thin, so I thought maybe they have two thin crusts. So I said regular.  A few minutes later, I really regretted that–I should have just repeated “thin.” I knew my pizza crust was not going to be vegan and my bad mood started. After I placed my order, she gave me a look and said, “Are you sure you don’t want goat cheese?” Maybe this was premature, but I started to get irritated. I just rattled off an order verbatim from the vegan ordering menu that was clearly designed for employees and she asked me if I was “sure” I didn’t want cheese. Again, perhaps premature, but this really rubbed me the wrong way.

Our food arrived and of course, as predicted, mine was not on thin crust. I am not the type to send food back, especially because I decided this was my own fault–she did give me the choice between the two crusts that weren’t thin and I didn’t correct her. My fault. I was not going to send it back. I told myself that maybe the crust just has a little honey or a little milk and it wouldn’t kill me. I was pissed, but I ate my pizza anyway. When my boyfriend and I were finished with our pizzas, we each had two or three pieces left. She brought us one small to-go box. I was irritated by this, too, because a) she assumed we lived together and are going to the same place. b) my pizza is vegan and his pizza was a meat-lover’s pizza, is she blind? I was just going to let it go but my boyfriend saw the look on my face so he asked her very nicely when she came back if we could get another box. She said, “Oh of course, I wouldn’t want you to get your meaty pizza all dirty with all those veggies on hers.”

This was the last straw for me. I don’t know if she was trying to be funny, or if she was trying to be flirty, or if she was just truly ignorant, but I was just in disbelief. I think at any other restaurant, I wouldn’t have been bothered by any of this. For me, it is the fact that I walked in there, was delighted to find that they have an employee guide to vegan and vegetarian menu items on their website, and my service proved to me that they have not actually educated their employees on this at all. I don’t know if I was more irritated by her ignorance which could be quite independent of the restaurant, or irritated that the website marketed the fact that their employees are aware of these things but have not followed through with the training necessary. I don’t mean to be psycho-vegan and I know this is all just par for the course, but I walked in having no expectations, was thrilled to find the vegan guide on their website, and then went on to be extremely disappointed. A more militant me would write a letter to their manager. But I don’t aim to get anybody fired. That’s not my thang.

And now to prove that I am human (ha), I am about to confess something extremely embarrassing. Yes, I am annoyed by people in the service industry who don’t understand dietary restrictions (whether they be by allergy or by choice), but it wasn’t that long ago that I was fuzzy on what “vegan” meant. Several years ago I heard this song…

There is a line in the song that goes like this…

so what do you do?
oh yeah, I wait tables too
no, I haven’t heard your band
’cause you guys are pretty new
but if you dig on vegan food
well come over to my work
I’ll have them cook you something that you’ll really love…

When I first heard this song, I was totally perplexed by this and thought the lead singer was trying to be funny–because I thought that “vegan” and “raw diet” were synonymous. Yikes! I thought he was being facetious by saying “I’ll have them cook you something” when raw food isn’t cooked. Oh, the strides I’ve made!

Moral of the story: we can all make mistakes/be uneducated. But I still find it less acceptable when your job is to serve others. Maybe our waitress didn’t deserve my wrath (and I still thought I was a very polite customer, I was not difficult, and we still tipped her 20%) but I couldn’t help but feel extremely angered by the entire situation.

Now on a lighter and less obnoxious note… some food porn. And cats. Because cats are cute and cuddly and make everybody on the interwebz feel better.

Buffalo seitan spinach wrap… (I really need to get off this seitan kick, I always wear out foods I love)

Vegan chocolate chip pancakes…

And finally, kitties!

they love to burrow in my very non-vegan-friendly winter footwear

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food!

I’ve been spending a lot of time talking about the couch to 5k and not a lot of time talking about food, so it’s time to switch things up.

The other day I had a hankering for pizza, but not Daiya pizza, just sauce and veggies. I’ve actually had this craving for about a month but every time we go to the store, the ONE pizza crust we found to be vegan has been missing. It was a generic brand and it’s like the execs of Jewel Osco just decided hey vegans, we’ve discontinued your pizza crust. Could I make my own crust? Well, yes. But that requires time, know-how, and probably bigger counters than I have in my teensy-weensy kitchen. So pizzaless I’ve been.

We paid a visit to Fresh Market about a week ago and a pizza crust caught my eye–Rustic Crust Old World. It looked so delicious and authentic and I thought there’s no chance it’s vegan. But it was! Should I have spent $5 on ONE crust? Well, no. But I did. And I was waiting and waiting until that familiar pang for pizza struck. It did so on Sunday.

I basically rummaged through my fridge for any and all veggies that looked like they were nearing iffy status and used them on this pizza. We’re talking orange peppers, green peppers, broccoli, spinach, onions. (As a side note, I find I purchase the same veggies week to week. I have really got to branch out.) The canned sauce I bought already had some spices in it but I thought hey, what the hell! Added some minced garlic, some oregano, some crushed red pepper, and voila.


The package says to bake this bad boy at 425 for 8-12 minutes. I thought it would take less time because it didn’t have any cheese or meat, but it actually took a little bit more than the 12 minutes advertised.

I’d really like to take a whirl at making my own pizza sauce from scratch because this canned sauce I used was a little on the sweet side for me. It did the job in a pinch, though!

I still have half the pizza in my fridge and it’s probably going bad by now. It was delicious and the crust was totally worth every penny–but the calories haven’t really fit with my diet plan so I’ve been putting off finishing it.

Switching gears…tonight’s dinner was borderline weird. Okay, more than borderline.

I was starving the second half of my work day. All I could think about was food. All I wanted to do was come home and binge on something salty. Then all I wanted was to stop and pick something up because I didn’t want to cook. By the time I got home, I thought that I’d just make do with what I could find. and then I got the bright idea to fry up some tofu!

I rarely prepare tofu a different way than pressing it and dry-frying it, then marinating it and adding it to whatever dish. I’ve actually never had tofu in anything that wasn’t Asian-inspired. I add tofu to my Thai dishes and with the exception of the few sauces and smoothies I’ve made with silken tofu, that’s about as creative as I’ve gotten. Sad, right? After the day I had I just really wanted some comfort food, diet be damned. So I fried some tofu.

But then came the dilemma: what is this tofu going to complement? I thought tacos sounded divine, but my taco shells went bad and I had virtually no veggies, so that was out…but I was really stuck on the taco idea and I have plenty of cans of beans, so I prepared what could possibly be the oddest, most bizarre combination of foods I’ve ever prepared: fried tofu, steamed broccoli, and pinto beans. What?

I know, very strange. And way too much tofu on that plate for any reasonable human to consume in one sitting. I used a variation of this recipe for the breading–really, the only variations I made were using whole wheat flour, and I nixed sage and subbed in oregano and a little bit of crushed red pepper (have I mentioned that I like it spicy?) I’d like to add the leftover tofu to a salad but I’m fresh out of lettuce and other garden greens. I haven’t decided what to do with the leftovers…but if there’s a will, there’s a way! What’s the weirdest combination of foods you’ve ever made?

I’m having some friends over this weekend and I’ve already promised to not make entirely vegan foods because there will be two very carnivorous men present, but my one friend is a vegetarian and will (hopefully) be very open to any new vegan treats I should try. I think I’ve already decided on making some salsa, some flatbread pizzas (just veggies for me, a cheese for her, and something with meat for the boys) and perhaps some chickpea chocolate chip cookie dough. What are your favorite vegan hors d’oeuvres? Bear in mind I have a very small kitchen and need a few low-maintenance foods to make that will be crowd-pleasers!

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