Well that’s it. It’s over. I officially give up on this vegan challenge and lifestyle. Sayonara veganness, welcome back meat and dairy!
I just couldn’t help myself. *Chuckle*
All joking aside, week 3 has probably been the toughest week so far in this challenge. Not due to a waning enthusiasm for all things vegan, not due to overwhelming cravings for pork chops or cheesecake, and not due to peer pressure or arguments against veganism. It was due to little things here and there that added up over the course of the week: my boyfriend decided he couldn’t hack the vegan lifestyle (proving once again that women are the stronger sex) and went back to eating ‘normally;’ I went to a family dinner that displayed homemade chocolate-chip cookies and cheese-and-meat-laden dishes; above all, I was ridiculously sick and in dire need of comfort food (and an exquisite compilation of cold and flu medication). When I think comfort food, I think hearty, homemade, stick-to-your-ribs food that satisfies some innate insatiable hunger for said dishes, which, somehow also make you feel better no matter how crummy you feel or sick you are. Miracle food, if you will. The problem with most ‘comfort food’ dishes is that they have some combination of meat or dairy in them. I attempted to combat the comfort food stereotype and create versions that maintained the vegan credentials. Therefore, there will be no ‘Eat Of The Week,’ but instead:
Comfort Food(s) Of The Week
Let’s start with the Italian-turned-American-defining dish that can be tailored to innumerable desires, satisfy the pickiest of eaters, and hold its own in the comfort food category: Pizza. There are few and far between who can turn down a piece of piping-hot pizza straight out of the oven, bursting with gooey cheeses and a plethora of delicious toppings, creating a perfect harmony of sweet, salty, and savory flavors delivered directly to your taste buds. You can be as creative or simple as you’d like with pizza, which is one of the love-evoking characteristics. For vegan pizza, there are a few caveats: thou shalt not have cheese, pepperoni, sausage, ham, canadian bacon, buttered crust, or fake-ground parmesan for topping. There are thousands of homemade pizza recipes online. I (sadly) did not take a picture of the final product, but this is essentially how it went down:
- Homemade whole-wheat, seasoned, agave drizzled crust
- Arrabiata sauce (now we have sweet AND spicy) – ‘doctor’ up your sauce however you’d like
- Sauteed portabella mushrooms, spinach, and onions with olive oil and Italian seasonings
- Sliced white onion, green and red bell peppers, olives, tomatoes
- Garnish/top with a little sea salt, fresh spinach (you can let it wilt on the hot pizza), basil, and if you’re like me red pepper flakes
I actually didn’t even miss the cheese!
While pizza is a nice start to some comfort food-filled days, there’s one thing that I kept thinking about over and over again.
Homemade macaroni and cheese.
I grew up spoiled. We rarely had mac n cheese out of a box; it was always a deliciously creamy 3 to 5 cheese dish of baked goodness that my mom ruined us with. Others rarely compare, and the boxed stuff is just out of the question. I even made it as my ‘American’ homemade dish for my Peruvian family when I studied abroad. That and guacamole. Separately, of course. They LOVED it! But, I digress. Cheese is nixed from the vegan food pyramid, so I went searching the web for ideas. I found one from Chef Chloe, whose cookbook I bought, and decided to give it a go. It had great reviews and sounded delicious.
I followed this recipe exact, not knowing exactly how these ingredients worked together. The resulting product actually looked like mac n cheese, so that was very exciting! As I dug into my pseudo cheesy noodles and broccoli, delicious as it was, I was a little disheartened. Don’t get me wrong, it had great flavor and texture, but it definitely left something to be desired for the cheese factor. Pushing aside the inclination to compare it to the mac n cheese I’m used to, I embraced the noodle dish I had created. It would be a great alternative for those who cannot have cheese. For those who can but are looking to try something different, go for it, but think of it as a new dish altogether, and not necessarily as the mac n cheese that you’re used to.
Of course, with comfort food you have to factor in something sweet, and, preferably chocolatey. I found a recipe for a vegan chocolate orange pudding, which fit in line with the comfort food theme. I have never been a fan of jello or pudding (I think it’s a texture thing), but the combination of orange and chocolate kept me coming back to the recipe. It’s about trying new things, so why not?
Chocolate Orange Pudding
The recipe turned out to be a complete disaster, so I’m not even going to post it on here. I dug deep and bribed my inner Betty Crocker to come save me on this one. The final product actually turned out beautifully. This is essentially what I did:
- 1 ½ ripe avocados
- Almond milk (unsweetened)
- Unsweetened cocoa powder
- Agave nectar
- Orange zest
- Garnish with small orange slices
- Refrigerate for at least 1 hour prior to serving
Forgive the vague measurements - I literally have NO idea how much of everything I put in there. Like I said, I started from scratch since the recipe led me down the pudding path of Hell (glimpse: fake vegan chocolate chip explosion in microwave, insta-drying to vegan chocolate cement). I do know that I put A LOT of agave nectar to sweeten it. You could use whatever sweetener you’d like. You could also start out with sweetened cocoa powder - the unsweetened stuff was all I had. Additionally, I put the avocado, almond milk, and cocoa powder in the blender to smooth everything out. I added the agave nectar and orange zest separately and mixed everything in a bowl. It turned out so creamy. I would say it made about 3 cups of pudding total. Oh, and HOLY CHOCOLATE GODS THAT’S GOOD!
Eye-Opener Of The Week
This 54-minute documentary takes us in to the world of wasted food. Directed by Jeremy Seifert, this documentary follows a group of dumpster divers who routinely get their food from big name grocery chain dumpsters, and exposes the wastefulness of the American consumer, grocery chain, and producer. In America, 96 billion pounds of food are thrown away every year. That’s about HALF the food that gets produced. “We pressure supermarkets, hotels, restaurants, and corporations to Save More and Waste Less. We highlight the role of hunger, poverty, and waste in society and take this on as an issue of justice, ethics, morality, and common sense. We imagine a world of empty dumpsters, full bellies, and regular people leading sustainable lives.” Seifert attempts to explore hunger in America, the amount food waste, and the large gap that could be closed as a result of wasted food ending up in hungry hands. He talks with food banks that acknowledge they have an annual food shortage, and continually strive to feed those in need. While many grocery stores and chains have agreements with food banks, that’s not always the case and there are many clauses and circumstances that create, what should be an easy process, a convoluted one. This award-winning film is literally an eye-opener to a world of waste that rarely comes to the forefront of current societal issues, and up until now, to my mind.
Director Jeremy Seifert is planning to launch another documentary this year that focuses on GMOs and the companies behind them. With the current controversy surrounding Monsanto, as well as GMOs in general, this film is sure to spark the interest of many. Check out the trailer here.
With a tough week behind me, I can keep my focus strong on the next 2 weeks of this challenge. Sometimes the desires of comfort and familiarity can be a learning curve that force us to think a different way. And sometimes that way is out of our comfort zone.