Sunday, August 25, 2019

Restaurant Review: Panera Bread

I had a work meeting at Panera Bread recently. I hadn't been there in a very long time. I don't think Panera is usually much fun if you're vegan, but you can find something to eat if you're stuck there. I had a garden salad with quinoa tomato sofrito and avocado added to it and a low fat vinaigrette dressing (that was the only vinaigrette available), with plain potato chips on the side.

It tasted fine (though the dressing was a bit too sweet for my tastes), but a meal like this one tends to not satisfy me very well, and I ended up hungry within a few hours. I often go a long time between lunch and dinner and this just wasn't enough to see me through. I kind of knew it wouldn't be, but I didn't want to spend the money on a smoothie to round it out. If I wanted to spend more, I probably could have managed to get something that stuck with me longer.

General thoughts: If you need to go along with a group with omnivores in it, you may want to visit Panera. There are options for you there, and the chain has restaurants nationwide, more or less. I feel like it's kind of expensive for a vegan to get a satisfying meal here, and there's nothing very exciting about it, but I'm glad it's there. 3/5

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Monbento Original #5 (Double Tier)

Watermelon chunks, mashed potatoes, a chickpea cutlet (I made a half-batch of Isa Chandra Moskowitz's recipe), steamed carrots with an attempted parsley garnish, and mushroom-cream sauce I made with non-dairy half-and-half.

A neighbor going out of town gave me half a watermelon when she left. I never buy watermelon, it being both large and expensive. But it was nice to have this one!

I really loved these chickpea cultets. They're surprisingly flavorful and so easy! Recipes with wheat gluten I've made before usually take a long time for steaming or baking but this pan-fried on the stove top in practically no time. And unlike those, the flavor isn't reminiscent of any meat I ever had. It's just it's own thing. And it's a good thing.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Monbento Original #4 (Double Tier)

Another green salad similar to yesterday's (lettuce, tomato, red onion, cucumbers, and carrots--I put them on top this time for a different visual presentation), some mango couscous salad (recipe from Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook (1995)), creamy Italian dressing (my usual bottled Italian mixed with Vegenaise), and bac'n bits.

The mango couscous salad did not call for salt. I was skeptical, but went with it. But I think if you use silken tofu in it as suggested as the non-dairy version (substituting for the yogurt), you need salt. You might anyway, but especially if you use the tofu. So I added salt later on. It is not my favorite thing; I won't make it again. But I ate all I'd made--it wasn't completely inedible, just bland.

The green salad, on the other hand, was surprisingly spicy! I tried out the cracked pepper version of the bac'n bits and they really pack a kick. Be forewarned if you're not into spicy things.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Monbento Square #4 (Double Tier)

A Gardein breakfast sausage patty with a biscuit to make a biscuit sandwich at lunchtime, a creamy pesto dressing (I mixed up some jarred vegan pesto with Vegenaise), some crispy roasted chickpeas (to use as salad croutons), and a colorful salad of baby lettuces, bell pepper, corn, tomatoes, red onion, and carrot shreds, and cucumber. (You can't see the cucumber or carrot much here unless you look closely--I buried them under other veggies, apparently--but they're there.)

I wanted to try something different with a portion of a can of chickpeas I had leftover from another recipe, so I didn't make hummus for once and just roasted them in my toaster oven. I didn't have that many, so it seemed like they should be croutons. I liked them as such, but they did tend to fall down to the bottom of the salad.

Is a sausage biscuit and salad a logical packed lunch? I don't know. But it's what I had and it was pleasant.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

ToGoWare 2-Tier Tiffin #25 (Vegan Pesto Pepperoni Salad Recipe)

Because it fits both my theme and the official #VeganMoFo prompt for today ("Indoor/Outdoor Picnic"), you know I cannot help but share a picnic post! This is a meal for two to share for a picnic I had with a friend back in June (these tiffins really seem to work best when packing food for two, I think):
Strawberries, blueberries, and pesto pepperoni pasta salad.

If you've been reading Food for Dissertating since my actual dissertating days in graduate school--which I doubt is the case for most of you, because the demographics have shifted a lot and I think most of you wouldn't have read my pre-vegan blog, and those who did read that aren't into vegan food so much and have abandoned ship--you know that once upon a time I loved a certain boxed pasta salad mix made by Archer Farms (the Target store brand). And like most things I loved made by Archer Farms, it mysteriously disappeared one day, never to be seen again. But I would have wanted to recreate it anyway, because it wasn't vegan.

Well! I have done it! Or at least something close. My friend liked this and she isn't vegan, so this is omnivore approved! So here is how you make vegan pesto pepperoni salad. It involves several specialty ingredients, including a jar of tofu pesto (this is a Shop Rite brand item, and not explicitly labeled as vegan, but the label lists no non-vegan ingredients), so it is not especially cheap. I waited until the pesto was on sale for half price to try it. But the tofu pesto is delicious on its own or as the basis for something else and makes this salad very easy. The pasta salad can be made ahead and packs well. You can't always have everything but having most things is nice. Some halved cherry tomatoes are a nice addition just before serving, but I didn't have any this time.

Vegan Pesto Pepperoni Salad
Serves about 4

4 oz. radiatore pasta (or something similar if that is not available; corkscrew pasta would probably also be nice), tricolor if you can find it (I did not find tricolor, alas)
1/2 7 oz. jar tofu pesto
1/3 cup vegan mayo (I used reduced fat Vegenaise)
3 tablespoons grated vegan Parmesan, plus additional Parmesan for garnish if desired
1/2 can black olives, halved
About 20 vegan pepperoni slices, halved (I used Yves)

Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, mix pesto, mayo, and Parmesan well in a large bowl. When pasta is done, drain and rinse in cold water. Toss with sauce, then add olives and pepperoni. Mix well. Allow to chill for a half hour to allow flavors to meld. Garnish with additional Parmesan cheese if desired.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Monbento Original #3 (Double Tier)

Garlic toast, sauteed green and yellow squash with Italian seasonings and non-dairy Parmesan, and linguine with Gardein meatballs and more Parmesan.

I had bought these things for when my guest was visiting and had some left, so that made for a no-brainer lunch today.

Monday, August 19, 2019

KOSOX 2-Tier Sushi Box #23

Pinwheels made from a tortilla, homemade white bean hummus, spinach, carrots, and cucumbers; mango chunks; and red and golden cherries.

This was a great meal--light, which I wanted after all that heavy vacationing food, tasty, and hitting all the high points. I haven't yet figured out the best way to make white bean hummus, but it wasn't bad. I seem to be better at making hummus with chickpeas. But fortunately a sprinkle of everything bagel seasoning over the hummus I spread on the wrap took it up several notches.