Friday, December 30, 2016

Red Robin - Harrisburg

K and I decided to visit Red Robin this past weekend.

I knew they had a vegan veggie burger (they use the original Boca burger) so I knew there would be something I could eat.  While the Boca burger is not my favorite, I figured if I topped it with the right items, it would taste alright.

But let's back up to the appetizers. PETA has a page about eating vegan at Red Robin, so I took a look to see what appetizers are vegan.  Of the three items they list, only one of them is currently on the menu at my local Red Robin. Luckily, it was the one I was most happy about: the Guac, Salsa and Chips.*  I love the chips and guacamole but I'm so-so on the salsa as it isn't a fresh salsa - but this is a burger joint so I'll excuse them.

Moving on to the veggie burger.  I decided to go with the Garden Burger which is on a whole wheat bun with Dijon mustard, tomato and lettuce. I ordered the bottomless fries to go with it but I rarely, if ever, order a second helping of fries.

My Boca burger was a little hard around the edges and I figured out why after the fact after looking around the internet.  Red Robin microwaves them.  I've had this experience at home so I should have recognized the issue.  Still, it was alright.  I think next time I'll try some different toppings. I think something a bit more sauce-like would work better but I'm not sure they have anything like that but perhaps I can improvise with some ketchup and vegan mayo - which I might just happen to carry in my purse.

All in all, my experience was alright.  Our waitress was great -and really helpful when it came to aiding me in figuring out what I could eat.

Image by Mike Mozart and obtained here

*Note: Vegan purists will point out that the tortilla chips (and fries, for that matter) are all fried in the same oil with everything else so they will not consider them vegan.  I am less concerned with trace amounts of animal products but it's entirely up to the individual.  Some vegans would not consume fried foods at this restaurant for that reason. I actually came across a blog where a vegan mentioned that she wouldn't eat the fries at Red Robin - but I found it amusing that she listed soft drinks as vegan when not all of them are!  I'll have to make a post about soda pop one of these days...

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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Veggie Bubba Burger

As we were passing the freezer section of a local grocery store, my boyfriend (who I call K), noticed that there were Veggie Bubba burgers in with the usual meat Bubba burgers.

I was intrigued!

I glanced over the ingredients and recognized that they are vegan so I popped them into our cart.

I finally got around to trying them yesterday and I was so surprised how much I liked them!

See, they are a black bean-based burger rather than a meat-substitute type burger and I have had bad experiences with them before.  They tend to be mushy and sort of disgusting.

But - I followed the instructions on the box and pan fried one and it was delicious. I made it a little crispy on the outside which helped distract from the mushier inside.  There are pieces of corn and peas and even carrots in the burger that helped a lot, as well.

I had mine with a bit of my own vegan horsey sauce I had in the fridge - because horseradish! - but I think it would be good with a variety of toppings.

I highly recommend these and I'm sort-of tickled that a burger company known for its meaty burgers thought to create a vegan alternative.  I'll be writing them and thanking them!

Update:  I used the contact form on the Bubba foods website to thank them for making a vegan burger that is so delicious.  I received a kind response and request to give them my mailing address so they can send me some coupons!  So nice!

I apologize for the lousy picture.  I didn't notice the shadow when I took it.

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Saturday, December 24, 2016

Hot & Sour Vegetable Soup with Tofu

A friend posted this recipe on Facebook and tagged me because it is vegan and she thought I would enjoy it.

I really haven't tried making many of this sort of soup in the past.  I generally stick to the basics: bean soup, vegetable soup, etc. I do eat them when I eat out, though, so I thought I would give it a go.

It is delicious!

I have a bit of a cold and that chili garlic sauce combined with the ginger cleared my head right up!

Yes. This soup is spicy but you can control how spicy when you make it. Just watch out for the chili garlic sauce.

I think I'll make it some day when I recover from my cold so I can taste it better!  I couldn't detect the green onion flavor at all when I tasted it so either it gets lost under all the stronger flavors or I just couldn't taste it with a stuffy nose.

Either way, I will defiantly make this soup again - though not for K.  He isn't sure what to make of tofu so I'll have to gradually introduce him to it, I believe.  I think my next tofu recipe will be one where I fry it crisp.  We'll see if that helps.

And here I am rambling on and I still haven't provided the link to the recipe.  It can be found at a blog called Budget Bytes and the direct link to the recipe is here.

Let me just say that Budget Bytes is one of my favorite recipe blogs!  Not all her stuff is vegan or can be made vegan but it all looks so good - and it isn't expensive to make any of it!  Check it out!

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Friday, December 23, 2016

El Rodeo Restaurant

El Rodeo is a chain of restaurants in our area of Pennsylvania. K (my boyfriend) and I had been wanting to stop at the Harrisburg location to eat and finally found the time last weekend.

I had already looked online to see what on their menu I could eat and discovered they have a vegetarian menu.  I had been told that they are willing to remove the cheese and/or sour cream to make dishes vegan so I wasn't expecting an issue.

I chose the Vegetarian Chimichanga which was described on the menu as:

"Two soft or fried chimichangas with grilled onions, tomatoes,
green bell pepper, squash and zucchini. Topped with lettuce,
sour cream and guacamole. Served with rice."

I explained to our server that I'd like them fried and without the sour cream.  I then asked if there was any other dairy items in the dish and she gave me a weird look then told me there was cheese.  I wasn't expecting that as it wasn't listed. Good thing I asked.  I asked for no cheese as well.

K decided to get the Grande Dinner out of frustration, I believe.  He found the menu a bit intimidating with so many choices.

We were both happy with our meals.

I found out later that the rice might not be vegan as traditional Mexican rice is made with chicken broth and theirs might be. I did see on the menu that one can substitute black beans as a side so I think I'll go with that next time.

All in all, I enjoyed the visit and I think we will be back.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Suds Your Duds the Vegan Way

When you become vegan, you think about more than what you eat and drink.  You also reconsider other products you use in your life.

For example, which laundry products you use.  Do they contain any ingredients from animals? Additionally, does the manufacturer test the products - or the ingredients - on animals?  If you are vegan because you are concerned about animal cruelty, you must remember that it doesn't stop at the farm.

Now, I knew the laundry detergent I use doesn't contain dyes and it states that it is derived from plant ingredients and that it is "green" (one of those nonsense terms) but I wasn't sure if it was cruelty-free. 

I did my research and I'm pleased to say that Ecos detergent is cruelty-free and vegan!  I've been buying it at Costco for years and I'm glad I don't have to switch to something else.

I really did luck out, it seems, as most laundry detergents are not considered vegan and you really have to search to find vegan detergents in stores.  It seems like it would be easier to order it online, if you aren't a Costco member.

Here is a list of vegan detergents I've found:

Method 8X laundry detergent
Mrs. Meyers 68 load laundry detergent
Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap
Good Home Beach Days Laundry detergent
Trader Joe's Liquid Laundry Detergent
Puracy Laundry Detergent
Pure & Gentle Anti-allergen Laundry Detergent
Seventh Generation Laundry Detergent
Earth Spirit Eco-Laundry Cleaner
Forever New Liquid
Whole Foods Market Organic Laundry Detergent

It seems like there are plenty of products available but the hard part might be finding them.  A quick search tells me that Target may have the Seventh Generation and Method detergents but I imagine it varies from store to store.  Of course, if you have a Trader Joe's or Whole Foods near you, you could find their detergents. I imagine they aren't cheap, however.

I do recommend Ecos detergent.  It's not overpriced and seems to do the job.  Plus, a little goes a long way so a bottle lasts me for months.

Have you tried a vegan detergent? What was your experience?

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Monday, December 19, 2016

Which Brands Cut the Mustard?

Becoming vegan means that you have to reconsider products that you have always used.  It isn't enough to stop eating meat and dairy products.  You have to reexamine everything!

The above are the different types of mustard currently in my refrigerator. Okay, to be completely honest, there is an additional Dijon mustard in my pantry, as well - but it is unopened.

I really, REALLY, like mustard.

So, I examined the ingredients.  Both the Colman's Mustard and Gulden's Spicy Brown Mustard are obviously vegan as is the store brand Dijon mustard in my pantry.  The other three are questionable because they contain "natural flavor".

The term "natural flavor" has become the bane of my existence.  Okay, that is a bit harsh but it really makes things so much more difficult.  Why? Because natural flavors could be from plant OR animal products and I can't tell which.  Unless a company goes out of its way to label a product vegan, it can be difficult to tell.

But I digress.  I went to the internet and looked through PETA's Accidentally Vegan and the Vegan Product Guide to find out. I tried a Google search, just in case I could find information elsewhere. Sadly, I was unable to discover any more information on them so I will have to contact the manufacturers.

At least I know I have 3 different options out of the 6 I now own until I'm able to gain any further knowledge.

[Update (12/19 1:32 pm):  I've heard from Plochman's and their mustard is vegan!  Good to know!]

[2nd Update (12/20) A friendly gentleman from French's called me - instead of emailing which gives them extra points from me - to tell me that all their mustard types are vegan with the exception of the honey mustard and honey Dijon which contain honey.  Of course, if you eat honey, those would be fine for you, as well. ]

[Final Update (12/21) I received a response from Kraft Foods, which makes Grey Poupon. The pertinent part reads,
"I apologize but unfortunately this ingredient information is not currently available.
As you can imagine our products change frequently, and maintaining a list of products for specific dietary practices would be virtually impossible."
Well, I didn't ask about ALL of their products.  I just asked about a particular brand, Grey Poupon. Still, I guess they are large enough that they simply don't worry if they lose vegans and vegetarians as customers.  Their loss.]

What's your favorite mustard?

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Sunday, December 18, 2016

Vegan Ginger Cookies - They're Gluten free, too!

I love the idea of a cookie that vegans AND those with celiac disease can all enjoy!  It's a win-win situation - or win-win-win if you include people with no limitations.

I came across the Minimalist Baker on Bloglovin'.  What's Bloglovin', you ask?  Well, let me explain. I used to follow quite a few blogs and used Google Reader to keep track of them.  When Google Reader went away *pauses to shake her fist at the powers that be* I tried to keep up with them but. frankly, I just haven't had much luck.

Then I came across Bloglovin'.  It is similar to Reader in that you can add blogs not already on the platform and "follow" them and blogs already there.  I'm not sure how, exactly, it works as it's new to me. It says it uses the RSS feed.  Anyway, you have a news feed that shows you the most recent updates of the blogs you follow.

I'm trying it out - and I've "claimed" this blog and Promises of The Donald on there.  If you want to try it, click the button at the bottom of this post or the one to the right in the panel.

But back to the cookies.  I did a search for "vegan" on Bloglovin' and The Minimalist Baker popped up.  I really enjoy ginger cookies so I thought I would try these! I like that it's a simple recipe - with ingredients I already have. I used all-purpose flour instead of the almond and gluten-free flours but you can follow the recipe if you are baking for someone with celiac disease.

I like how she says the glaze is optional.  Not in my house it isn't...

As you can see from my picture, I am not very good at drizzling a glaze but I figure the taste is more important than the appearance.

I'm pleased to report that they are quite tasty! Every my non-vegan boyfriend enjoyed them. The recipe made almost 3 dozen cookies and they are smaller that I thought they'd be. Still, I think the recipe is a keeper!

The recipe can be found here.

Let me know if you try it and what you think!

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Friday, December 16, 2016

Eating Vegan at Taco Bell!

Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supreme and Taco Sauce 2014-03-19 1395235659

A vegan friend mentioned that he visits the Taco Bell near his workplace often and I had to ask what he could possibly order there that is vegan.  After all, most items on their menu contain meat and/or cheese, sour cream, etc.  He let me in on the secret: You just have to know what to order and clarify what you DON'T want in your food.

I had no idea that Taco Bell was so accommodating!

You can order the Crunchwrap, for example, but ask for black beans instead of beef and tell them to make fresco-style.  They'll remove the dairy and replace it with salsa.

In fact, most everything can be made fresco style AND you can add or subtract ingredients.  Now, there might be a minor charge for a substitution or additon but I think it is well worth it!

Here are some other ideas:

The Double-decker taco can be veganized by asking that they replace the beef with beans and replace the cheese with guacomole!

The 7-layer Burrito can be made "fresco" - they'll remove the cheese, sour cream and guacomole and add pico de gallo.  You can even add other ingredients, if you want.  (I'd add some onions, myself)

The black beans and rice are already vegan as are the cinnamon twists so you can have dessert, as well.

I never would have dreamed that I could find so many vegan options at a fast food restaurant!  I don't eat fast food often, but it's nice to know that I have choices at Taco Bell.

What's your favorite menu item at Taco Bell?

Image By Tony Webster (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Missing Link

I have discovered a new vegan meat substitute that I just cannot get enough of!
I meant to snap a picture prior to opening the package... Sorry! but you get the idea.
Field Roast, the company behind Chao cheese slices I mentioned in a previous post, makes sausage links that are out of this world!

They come in 3 flavors:
  • Italian
  • Mexican Chipotle
  • Smoked Apple Sage
A vegan friend recommended the apple sage but I went to the store looking for the chipotle. I didn't find it but I did find the Italian so I bought that. Now, I'm not a big fan of most Italian sausage - or wasn't when I still ate meat - but, to borrow my friend Mo's expression, it is lush. So good. I had a link by itself and cut up 2 more to mix in a pasta casserole I made the next day. 

I'm going to keep my eyes open and see if I can find the other two flavors to try next.

I highly recommend this product and I'm beginning to think this company can do no wrong.

Have you tried their products?  If so, what do you think?

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Monday, December 12, 2016

The Way the Cookie Crumbles...

I'm not a huge fan of store-bought cookies, but I do enjoy an occasional Oreo or Nutter Butter.  Now that I'm vegan... I can still eat both of these cookies!  I was so excited to hear that they are alright for me to eat - especially the Nutter Butters.

Now, Oreo comes in tons of different flavors - so many that I can't even list them.  They seem to come out with a new flavor every week!  Then there are the thin, double-stuffed and mega-stuffed...

[Seriously, Nabisco.  It might be time to reign it in now!]

I do know that both the traditional Oreo and the Golden Oreo are vegan and that's good enough for me.

I only just found out that Nutter Butter cookies are vegan! I was curious about which other cookies were vegan so I looked around the internet and discovered that Nutter Butters are, as well!

What can I say about Nutter Butter cookies? They're what I used to look forward to after I donated blood - until the blood bank went on to something cheaper.  I can't say I blame them as they are a non-profit and have to keep costs down, but I sure do miss them.

I'm glad Nabisco has left these cookies pretty much alone.  Yes, you can buy the smaller version, Nutter Butter bites, in a plastic cup but they're the same cookie, only smaller.  I guess you just shouldn't mess with perfection.

Are you aware of any other store-bought cookies that are vegan?  Let me know in the comments!

Nutter butter cookie picture obtained here

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Vegan Steel-cut Oats in the crockpot

I enjoy a nice warm dish of oatmeal and especially like hot cereal this time of year. I also prefer steel-cut oats but... they take longer to cook so they weren't working well for me on weekdays.

Then I heard someone say they cook them overnight in a slow-cooker and I thought, I'll bet I can do that - and make them vegan.

I searched for a vegan recipe and found this one for Vegan Slow Cooker Apple Pie Steel-cut Oats on The Full Helping.  Now I'm going to sound like a lot of people who write comments on online recipes...

I didn't have the dates or the coconut sugar, so I left them out and added some maple syrup. I skipped the cloves and added more cinnamon after cooking as I thought the flavor disappeared while cooking.

It was good - and K liked it, too - but I wasn't thrilled with the apples...  so...  I changed it up a little. Here's my recipe for brown sugar raisin oatmeal based on the one I linked above:

Brown Sugar Raisin Oatmeal for the Crockpot

1 1/2 cup steel-cut oats (not the quick cook steel cut I see now in stores)
3 cups almond milk (I use the unsweetened but I imagine this would work with the sweetened or even the vanilla flavored sweetened if that's your thing.  Likewise, I guess cow's milk would work, too.)
3 cups water
1/4 cup raisins (approx.)
2 TBSP brown sugar
1/4 tsp nutmeg (or you can use whatever floats your boat)
dash salt
1 tsp vanilla

Place everything in the crock pot (4 to 6 quart) and stir to combine.  Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. Stir and enjoy.

I've already cooked it another hour or so and it is fine.  Just stir it well, scraping the sides, before serving.

It's so nice to wake up and find breakfast ready.  It's one of my new favorite things.

Let me know if you try my recipe and what you think of it.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Root of Lancaster

This past Saturday, I went to a birthday gathering for a fellow vegan held at Root in Lancaster, PA. Root is a vegan restaurant and I just love going there!  I never have to ask if something is vegan because EVERYTHING is vegan.  Even better, the menu changes every 6 to 8 weeks or so.  That means there is always something new I can have practically every time I go there.

In the area of the country where I live, this is the only exclusively vegan restaurant I am aware of.  There are several places that have vegan and non-vegan dishes but this is unique.

I live about an hour away from this restaurant so I can't stop there too often but I've been there 3 times in all. The first time, they had a KFC bowl -with mashed potatoes, corn and seitan.  It was also "wing night" when we went that time so we got some seitan wings, as well.

The second time I was there, K had the taco mac and cheese and I had the gumbo. We split the stuffed mushroom caps.  K went along with me that time because it was my birthday.  We choose where to go out to eat for our birthdays.

This time they had the same menu so I got the stuffed shells with the spring roll appetizer.

I think I've liked EVERYTHING they serve there.  I've never had a bad experience.  Even better is that they give you a big portion of food.  K was filled when we ate there together and I always have left overs to take home. The bonus is that I can eat everything on the menu and that makes me so happy.

So, if you are vegan or vegetarian or just want a large portion of delicious food to eat, try Root in Lancaster.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

MorningStar Farms - a love/hate relationship

When I first decided not to eat meat anymore, I looked around for some meat substitutes to help me during the transition. My local grocery stores carried MorningStar Farms products, owned by Kellogg's, and little else.  So, I tried them.

I was impressed with their breaded "Chik'n" products, the nuggets and patties, and decided I liked the "bacon" that reminded me of real bacon even if the experience wasn't exactly the same.

Their crumbles were a terrific way for me to continue to enjoy chili, spaghetti and even tacos. I was less impressed with their burgers, but there are plenty of those available from other companies so that was no big deal. I even liked the breakfast sausage links. 

Life was good.

Then, I went vegan and... everything changed.

I discovered that none of the above products are vegan. In fact, I wasn't sure that ANY of their products were vegan other than the items in their Progressive Options line. I was so disappointed!

I wrote to Kellogg's and received the following information.  The following MorningStar Farms products are vegan:

Garden Veggie Nuggets
Hickory BBQ Riblets
White Bean Chili Burgers
Roasted Garlic and Quinoa Burgers
Spicy Indian Veggie Burgers
Thai Yellow Curry Veggie Bowls
Chik'n Strips
Steak Strips
Veggie Sausage and Grain Breakfast Patties

No more crumbles!  No more "Chik'n" patties.  It's really a shame! Worse, the vegan products are more difficult to find around my area.

Even though I no longer rely much on meat substitutes, I did like having some of these products in the freezer so I had them in a pinch.  Now I have to do web searches for similar products that are vegan and travel around to different stores to find them.  

I suppose it is all worth it in the end.  It just seems like such a shame that the more readily available products no longer suit my diet. 

I was pleased to get a response from a Kellogg's representative and glad that there were a few more options that suit my diet than I first thought.  Now I guess I have to try to work on getting my local stores to carry some of them!

Monday, December 5, 2016

A Triscuit, A Tasket*

I love triscuits!   I like the fact that they are a whole-grain snack and I love all the different flavors.
This is my favorite flavor right now - Roasted Garlic

Now that I'm vegan, I had to try to find out which of these crackers I can eat!

Just like the potato chips I spoke about previously, the original Triscuits are obviously safe: Whole grain wheat, vegetable oil (soybean or canola oil), sea salt.

But there are so many different flavors and I wanted to know which ones I can indulge in!

I went to the Triscuit website but the contact us by email link gave me a blank page.  I see there is a phone number I can call or a snail mail address.  I think I'll try the phone number during their business hours.

In the meantime, I noticed that PETA has a list of vegan Triscuit flavors:

Balsamic Vinegar & Basil
Cracked Pepper & Olive Oil
Dill Sea Salt & Olive Oil
Fire Roasted Tomato & Olive Oil
Garden Herb
Hint of Salt
Reduced Fat
Roasted Garlic (Yum!)
Roasted Red Pepper & Red Bean
Rosemary & Olive Oil
Rye With Caraway Seeds
Sea Salt & Black Pepper</
Sweet Potato & Cinnamon Sugar
Sweet Potato & Roasted Onion
Wasabi & Soy Sauce

I think that is sufficient for now. I'm not sure when this list was compiled so there might be new flavors I can eat, as well.  I'll update if I get more information after I post this.

*Yes, I know I misquoted the lyrics but it was either that or try to come up with something witty about crackers and I'm not going there.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Being Vegan Isn't Always Easy

Since becoming vegan, I've had an even more difficult time figuring out what to eat when we go out.
When I was pescetarian, could usually find a fish or seafood item. When I stopped eating fish, it was more difficult, but I could generally find a meatless entree.  Now, I find myself looking up menus online ahead of time if possible so I can figure out what I might be able to eat.  I've even had to resort to calling places ahead of time to ask if they have any suggestions.

For example, last week, K spontaneously decided he wanted to go to Arby's to eat.  You know... the place that advertises, "We have the meats!".  I quickly used my smart phone to find out that I could have the curly fries and Arby's sauce.  So, I told him I was fine with going if he was alright with me sitting there eating fries.  He was alright with that.  I ate something more substantial when we arrived home. Win-win.

Still, this is a lot easier than navigating a pot luck.  Or an employee appreciation dinner, even. I have both of them coming up this month.

For the potluck, there will be one item I can be sure that I'll be able to eat - whatever I bring.  Other than that?  Maybe a salad - if someone didn't decide it needs bacon or cheese or such. I know my co-workers enough to know that there will be plenty of dishes containing meat, dairy and/or eggs.  I also know that they will probably not go out of their way to prepare anything vegan for me. They didn't accommodate me when I was vegetarian or pescetarian so this will be no different.

As far as the employee appreciation meal goes, I'm going to try to skip it.  They are serving ham, turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, green beans, cookies and ice cream. Same menu every year.

So... I could have corn and green beans if the cook doesn't decide to add something dairy to them or meat juices, which he has been known to do.

I asked my boss if I can just stay upstairs instead of going down to eat but he didn't actually answer me.  It's been bad enough in years past to just get the vegetables, mashed potatoes and desserts.  Now, it just seems ridiculous.  Plus, I really don't want to ask if there is anything added to the veggies.

In any event, I'll be bringing something I CAN eat that day and either eat it downstairs with everyone else or upstairs by myself.

And, yes. I feel a bit better now that I've finished complaining.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Creamy Dairy Free Potato Soup With Kale

When the weather turns cold, I start to think of soups and stews.  Since becoming vegan, I've had to rethink the types of soups I make. Chicken noodle is bland if you make it without meat and use vegetable broth. Chili, on the other hand, turns out just fine without the meat!  You just have to experiment.

Of course, there are tons of recipes available online, as well, and that's where I found today's dish.

Today's recipe is a delicious soup I discovered that my meat-eating boyfriend also enjoys!  Bonus:  It's vegan!  I'll bet you guessed that...

I found the recipe at Veggie Inspired.  Click here for the soup recipe.

I do not own an immersion blender so I had to remove some of the soup from the pot and put it in my blender to pulverize. Worse, my new Ninja blender does not recommend that you use it for hot food so I had to wait for the soup to cool prior to blending.  I just reheated it a bit after blending so it was all good.  Still, it would be nice to have an immersion blender for this sort of thing. (Hint-hint.  Hope Santa is paying attention!)

The picture shows what mine looked like just prior to eating.   It wasn't around long!  Next time I think I'll double the recipe so I have more leftovers!

Friday, December 2, 2016


Arooga's is a sports bar with locations mostly in Pennsylvania - though there are stores in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey and New York.

The chain is known for it's chicken wings which, of course, are not vegan.  They do now have Chicken Free Chicken Sticks which their menu tells us are vegetarian.  I was told that they were also vegan so I was thrilled!  I used to love chicken wings and now I could have the same flavor in a meat-free alternative.

I convinced my meat-eating boyfriend to accompany me to the restaurant one day when we were in the area.  I ordered the chicken-free sticks and the waitress asked which sauce I wanted.  I asked which sauces were vegan and she said she didn't know but went off to find out.  Much later, she arrived back at our table to report that none of them were.  She had asked 4 different managers and that was what she was told.

Now, I knew this was wrong because a member of my vegan Facebook group mentioned that her boyfriend is a manager at another location and he had investigated for her and told her which ones were vegan.  I didn't have that list with me, however, so I ordered them plain.  They really are tasty all on their own, to be honest.  The menu mentions that they are made by Beyond Meat - which is a good meat-substitute company and they really created a quality product.  I was not happy, however, that I couldn't have a sauce on them.

I reported my experience to those in my vegan group and received varying and contrary information about which sauces are vegan.  I decided to contact the restaurant, myself, to try to clear up the confusion.

It turns out that the confusion might have to do with vegans who consume honey and vegans who don't.  Most vegans I know do not eat honey but some do.  The regional manager sent me a list broken down between those that contain honey, but no other animal products, and those that do not contain ANY animal products.  Here they are:

If you consume honey the following are vegan:
honey bbq
sweet and tangy
almost everything
general tso
red thai

100 % vegan:

So! K and I made a return trip where I had the chicken-free chicken strips with medium sauce. Yummy and absolutely worth the effort I put into finding out what I can eat. The bonus was that the regional manager told me that he would be sure that all the locations were aware of which sauces were vegan and, sure enough, my vegan friend with the manager boyfriend told me he received this information!

Once again, I think I've proven that asking for information can yield the results that you want if you are persistent enough.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Say Cheese!

I used to say that the main reason I could never become vegan was my love of cheese.  I honestly still miss it some days, but it is easier to manage now that I've discovered some decent vegan cheeses.

My first experience with vegan cheese was the Go Veggie! line of sliced cheeses. Actually, I should clarify that I didn't realize that there was a vegan line that was separate from their simply dairy-free line so I'm honestly not sure which I actually ate.  I did manage to eat the slices - buried in a salad sandwich - but I was not at all excited by them.

Next time I went to the store, I noticed Chao Slices. *insert the sound of a heavenly choir singing* My, my!  What a difference!  I can eat it plain and enjoy it!  My meat-eating boyfriend ate some not realizing that it was vegan and was utterly floored that it wasn't a dairy cheese.  It is divine, people. No lie.

I decided to try to find a shredded product for pizza.  Now, I do eat pizza sans cheese and it is alright but I have to admit that I miss the cheese sometimes and would like to have an option.  I recalled my experience with the Go Veggie brand so I decided to look for something else.  Unfortunately, my local store only sold the Go Veggie shreds.  I was aware that people in my vegan Facebook group had mentioned Daiya cheese so I set out to find it.  It is not sold in the small city 8 miles south of me but it is sold just over the county line in a store about 30 minutes from my house.

I'm so glad I made the trip. It is fantastic.  I like it on pizza, melted on potatoes, etc.  It is wonderful.

So!  There you have it!  These are my favorite vegan cheeses.  I'm limited by my location and what is available around here but I'm happy that I have these cheese-substitutes to eat.

What are your favorites?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Day Off

Today is an "off day" on this blog. There will be a new post tomorrow.

I do have a new post on my other blog today that can be found here.

See you back here tomorrow!

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Chips are Down

I'm a salty snack freak and one of my favorite snacks are potato chips.  I know they aren't healthy - don't bother to tell me.  I will continue to eat them.  In moderation.

Two local chip companies make chips that I especially enjoy but, as a newly minted vegan, I wasn't sure which of their flavors were vegan. Yes, I could always safely choose the original salted chips as both companies use vegetable oil instead of lard, but I like different flavors! Many products of this kind contain "natural flavors" which could be from animal products.

So, with this in mind, I decided to try to find out which of their products I can consume.

I began with Utz Chips.  First I visited their website to see if they had nutritional information there that might help me.  Their FAQ on nutritional information is educational if you are interested in avoiding peanuts or gluten or if you follow a kosher diet.  I did not see anything about which items were vegan, however.  So, I decided to contact them via email to see if I could find out more.

I sent a simple question: Can you tell me which of your chips are vegan?  I was only interested in their chips, not the rest of their snack food line so I thought I'd be more specific.

A couple days later, I received this response:
"While this is not a certification that we advertise most of our products are Kosher certified which means they would be free from any animal derived ingredients. I have included a link below that lists all of our products that are Kosher. Have a good day!"

I thought I was already familiar with what is required for Kosher certification and I'm aware that there are Kosher hot dogs -which I presume contain meat - but I thought I'd investigate.  Wikipedia informs me that there are, in fact, Kosher animal products so I was right.  Kosher products are definitely NOT all vegan.

I wrote back to the customer service rep explaining that vegan is not equal to Kosher but received no response.  I plan to try calling next but I've not yet taken the time to do so. I'll update this post when I do.

The second chip company I contacted was One Potato Two Potato.
I contacted the company using the form on their website and received a quick response with a list of their vegan products! Success!

For the record, these flavors are vegan:
Naked Sea Salt
Plain Jaynes (sweet potato)
Root Fusion
Seaside Salt'n Vinegar
Sgt. Pepper & Capt. Sea Salt

Sadly, my favorite flavor, Savannah Sweet Onion, is not on the list nor is the Hawaiian BBQ. I have to wonder if they contain cane sugar and that's why they aren't considered vegan.

Side note: I've learned that some vegans don't consider cane sugar vegan and some do. Apparently bone char is used in the processing of most cane sugar. You learn something new everyday....

[Update:  I've since noticed that the vegan chip flavors are labeled vegan on their pages.  It is possible that they were labeled all this time but I hadn't noticed the first time I looked. Regardless, they are now labeled.]

I was pleased to have the success I did and will try to remember to contact the Utz company to see if I can educate them AND get the information I need so I know if I can continue to consume their chips.  Ultimately, my goal is to get them to list their vegan varieties on their Web page, if possible. I'll update this post if I get any further information.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Vegan Pumpkin Pie!

I want to be able to share recipes that I've tried but I don't want to duplicate them here if I found them online as that seems like it is cheating.  (and possibly contrary to copyright laws)

I decided that I will link to the recipe but not post it here.  I will still talk about it, what I liked, what I didn't, etc and what I may had done that altered from the original recipe.

This week was Thanksgiving and I made a vegan pumpkin pie to take to the family meal.  I looked online for one that sounded reasonable (easy and didn't contain ingredients I don't usually have or that are difficult to find) and tasty.  I chose this one:

Easy Vegan Pumpkin Pie from It Doesn't Taste Like Chicken

I really enjoyed this pie and will make it again.  Additionally, meat-eaters in my family also enjoyed the pie so win-win!  (or not if you want it all to yourself)

I also like that I could just dump all the ingredients into my blender, mix and pour into the pie crust. You can't get any easier.   I like easy.

I used some of the pumpkin from the volunteer pumpkins that came up in our garden this year so I didn't have to buy any.  You can use canned pumpkin but I really prefer fresh, myself.

The pie crust I used was my mother's oil pastry crust - modified to be vegan.  I will post this recipe:

Oil Pastry

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
5 TBSP milk (I used unsweetened, unflavored almond milk instead of dairy milk and it worked up just fine.)

Mix flour and salt in a bowl.  Set aside.  Mix oil and milk in a small bowl.  Add liquid to the flour mixture and stir.

Makes 1 2-crust pie* (roll out between wax paper) or two 1-crust pies.
*I use a full recipe for a deep dish pie plate.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Hospital Food

Last month had a short stay in a local hospital following an operation.  

[Note:  I've decided not to mention which hospital because I feel that the problems I encountered are being addressed and things might be better in the future.]

Since I was there from early morning until late afternoon, I was asked to order breakfast - and later, lunch.  This involved calling a number and telling the woman who answered what I wished to eat from the menu.

Breakfast was no big problem as I was told that I could only order clear liquids.  I ordered coffee, apple juice and vegetable broth.

Lunch posed a more difficult problem.  I no longer was limited to clear liquids but I had to try to find something somewhat filling but also vegan.  I noted that gluten-free items were marked on the menu but not vegan. I asked the woman on the phone if the veggie burger was vegan.

"What's that?", she asked.

I sighed. I wasn't feeling very well and really didn't feel like this conversation. I told her that it's like vegetarian but we don't eat any other animal products - like dairy products or eggs.

"Oh", she said, "I don't know".
Oh.  I see - she doesn't know and doesn't feel compelled to find out.  I was irritated.

I went with a salad. Italian dressing on the side since she wasn't sure if it was creamy Italian or not.

The salad was rather pitiful.  Mostly iceberg lettuce with some carrots, a few strands of onion and a couple pale tomato wedges.  Still I was sticking to my diet so I felt good about that.

When I arrived home later, I posted about my experience on Facebook in a vegan group I am a member of.  I was asked which hospital and told that their veggie burger WAS actually vegan.  The person who told me this worked higher up in the same medical group and was in a position to address the issue as part of his duties. He assured me that the employees will be informed about what vegan means and on which items fit that description. He also mentioned that he had suggested that vegan items be labeled on the menu but was told it wasn't necessary. He said he would bring it up again.

So, even though my experience was not ideal, I'm pleased that the issues will be addressed so if I need to be admitted there again, I will have a better experience.

Look at that.  I just became a vegan and I'm already promoting change. Not too shabby!