Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Insulated Jar & Sides #27

Steamed broccoli seasoned with Mrs. Dash, Chinese-Inspired Saucy Beans (recipe below) over rice (trust me, it's under there), apple slices, and crunchy Biscoff spread.

I used to love the classic Chinese dish, tomatoes and eggs with rice. But of course eggs are off limits for me now. So when I was trying to come up with things I could cook easily, and I had these beans in tomato sauce, I thought I'd give cooking them in a similar style a whirl. They were amazing and even easier than tomatoes and eggs.

Chinese-Inspired Saucy Beans
Serves 2-3

1 tablespoon peanut oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped bell peppers (any color--here I used red and yellow)
1 can vegetarian beans in tomato sauce
Splash soy sauce
Splash rice vinegar

Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook onions and pepper until soft. Add beans, soy sauce, and vinegar and heat through. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

Serve over cooked white rice.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Lunchopolis #35

Peanut butter and banana sandwich, tea biscuits, and baby carrots.

I'm feeling broke at the moment (having learned not to say I'm feeling poor--the difference between my under-employed days and now being that my income can cover my expenses just fine, and sometimes I've just had more outgo than I'd like) so this week's lunches rely either on pantry items or really cheap things, also I overslept this morning, hence the banana sandwich.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Pack-a-Snack #81

Apple slices and peanuts with crunchy Biscoff spread (a gift from a British friend). I have fallen in love with apple slices dipped in crunchy Biscoff! It's so good. You can't find this spread all over the U.S., but Trader Joe's Speculoos is similar (not as good, in my opinion, but close).

Friday, June 23, 2017

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Temari Rabbit Bento Bowl #19

Coconut rice with spicy tofu and sliced cucumbers with rice vinegar and black sesame seeds.

This recipe was not all I'd hoped, but it tasted much, much better the next day than it had at dinner right when I made it, so there is that.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Insulated Jar & Sides #26

The blurriness of the peach Daiya yogurt on the right, upon which my camera would not focus, should have been an omen. Grapes, oatmeal topped with peanut butter and jelly, and said yogurt.

I have tasted all these things and can recommend them. And if you have never topped your oatmeal with dollops of peanut butter and jelly, well, you have not yet lived.

But if you pack your lunch like this, do not do what I did and leave it sitting in the kitchen so that you are forced to forage for food in the wild at work. Sigh.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Skater Lunch Box #25

Grits topped with Daiya cheddar and vegan sour cream (I like Tofutti), sauteed mixed baby greens (kale, swiss chard, and spinach), a little cup of Bac'n pieces, sauteed mushrooms, and cherries.

I was proud of this one, because it was improvisational. I've trusted myself a lot less to improvise since I began this transition, relying heavily on cookbooks, frozen foods, and aggressive meal planning. But then sometimes you just have to make it up as you go along. I was afraid I'd never be able to do it again after I went vegan, but I'm managing.

This was really good. It needed the Bac'n pieces for both protein and taste, so I'm glad I packed those, too. I'm not a major fan of grits but they're quick and a nice change of pace.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Laptop Lunches #275

Vegan beanie weenies (recipe below), cherries, pasta with a sauce that you might call cheese but not quite, and cucumber slices.

I think I've said before that beanie weenies with macaroni and cheese was my favorite meal, pre-veganism, and now that I'm in this transition I wanted to find a way to recreate it. The beanie weenies are pretty easy, but the macaroni and cheese has been elusive. This seems closer to, but not quite, where I'd like to aim. The sauce was creamy and tasted really good alongside the beans, but it wasn't actually all that cheesy. I think maybe next time I will melt some Daiya into it.

However, the beanie weenies are prefect. Here's how to get about 3-4 servings.

Vegan Beanie Weenies
Serves: 3-4

1 tablespoon vegan butter (such as Earth Balance)
1 small onion, chopped
4 vegan hot dogs, cut into slices
1 can vegetarian beans in tomato sauce (I used these)

Melt butter in a nonstick skillet. Cook onions until soft, then add hot dogs. When the hot dogs are heated through, add the beans. Let simmer, covered, until hot.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Happy Jackson Snack Boxes #27

Because of ongoing free-stuff-at-work, the lunch I'm showing you today is from a while ago (late March, to be precise).

Rice, orange chick'n (Gardein) with scallions, spinach sauteed with mushrooms and tomatoes, pineapple, strawberries, and a Magical Coconut Bar.

I was pretty excited about the coconut bar, which is like the miracle bars I used to get at potlucks. I had made a batch for an event and ended up with a ridiculous quantity of leftovers, some of which I gave to a skeptical omnivore friend who loved them. But I was happy to have plenty for myself, too. Mmm. There are other ways to get an extra hit of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, but this one is more fun than most.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Lunchopolis #34

Something so, so exciting happened, you guys! A whole passel of vegetarians and vegans came for a work meeting so the leftover catering was vegan! And I didn't have to cook lunch or dinner for a few days, which is good because I totally didn't want to. So here's some of what the caterers had brought the day before.

This is a pasta salad with roasted peppers, artichokes, olives, and asparagus; dolmas; pita; and baba ganoush.

Dolmas are stuffed grape leaves. College was my first encounter with this whole realm of cuisine, and it really bewildered me. I wouldn't buy dolmas myself, probably, but if they're there, I'd eat them.

Baba ganoush, on the other hand, is a garlicky eggplant dip that totally amazes me. I was really glad there was a lot left over.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Insulated Jar & Sides #25

Melon chunks, canned soup (Campbell's has a new vegan vegetable soup), and soup mandels (mini croutons). (In case you can't tell, not feeling well has lasted a little while, and cooking is beyond me.)

This particular soup is actually labeled as vegan, which is uncommon in general and nearly unheard of from Campbell's. (Again, nobody ever pays me or sends me free soup or anything for this.) Warning: nearly all Campbell's soups, including their "vegetable" soup, aren't even vegetarian, let alone vegan (it's in that "natural flavoring" you'll find on the label, and people moan about it all over the internet. Because...really!? That seems wrong somehow). This is the Italian vegetable with farro, and it's reasonably good. It is also clearly labeled as vegan.

Soup mandels are from the kosher section again. They're really fun and also good in salad.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Happy Jackson Snack Boxes #26

The makings of a sandwich (veggie bologna (Yves), a panda cup with vegan mayo (Vegenaise), lettuce, tomato, bread) and some pineapple.

I wasn't feeling well in the morning, and didn't have much energy to devote to figuring out what to have for lunch. But a sandwich ready to assemble is almost always better than one prepared and then eaten several hours later.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Temari Rabbit 2-Tier Bento #92

Leftover spicy eggplant, some glazed veggie meatballs, rice, and leftover mu shu vegetables.

This was from a Chinese restaurant down the road. I added the veggie meatballs. Eating out isn't necessarily hard as a vegan around here, although it is kind of boring at times. The point of eating out for me now is the company, not the food. If I want to have something really good, I cook it at home. This wasn't bad, really, not at all, but it wasn't exciting.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

3-Tier Bento Bottle #36

Cucumber salad (Fannie Farmer Cookbook), grapes, and vegetarian kibbeh.

Two lessons today. One, it was really easy to veganize this, my favorite cucumber salad recipe. I just used vegan mayo. Everything else was vegan already. So I don't need to necessarily turn only to vegan cookbooks.

Two, the frozen section of the kosher department of the grocery store has many hidden gems. Kibbeh, a Middle Eastern dish kind of like a filled dumpling, is one of these. The kosher sections often have vegan food in them, in part because of restrictions on mixing meat and dairy products in Jewish law and custom. If you're going to serve your kibbeh with yogurt (as is often done), it can't be a meat dish. In any case, this section of the grocery store isn't made up of self-consciously healthy food, although I don't think there's anything particularly unhealthy about it. But they tried to make the meaty filling (TVP, mostly) taste like a greasy red meat--I think it most resembled lamb on my tasting. The breading is made of bulgur, which I've always liked but hardly ever prepare. I wouldn't be surprised if you started seeing me taking more kosher section adventures.

Kibbeh goes really well with cucumber salad, by the way. You need something creamy to offset the slightly greasy filling. Also, it was necessary to microwave the kibbeh; room temperature just didn't work out.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Skater Lunch Box #23

Mashed potatoes (made from some of my too-salty potatoes), chickpea meatloaf, and a simple cucumber-tomato salad with my balsamic vinaigrette dressing, which I made with white balsamic vinegar because it looks better that way on cucumbers.

I really seem to be cooking up a storm, but that's because there were so many make ahead recipes and I could get so much done on the weekend. But I surprised myself here.

The chickpea meatloaf held its shape well. I halved the recipe, so I got about 4 servings out of it, and baked it in two mini loaf pans. I thought the glaze was a bit too fussy for me--I would have been fine with ketchup mixed with a little soy sauce, or serving it with some mushroom gravy--but it tasted good. It is not meatloaf as I remember meatloaf, but it doesn't have to be. It is its own thing.

Also, leftovers were excellent in a meatloaf sandwich with mayo and some Daiya cheddar cheese melted into the reheated meatloaf. Mmm.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Lunchopolis #33

An eggless salad (Hot for Food) sandwich, a little bottle of homemade vinaigrette, fresh cherries,  basic salad (mixed lettuces, tomatoes,cucumbers, yellow bell pepper), and potato salad.

Doesn't this salad look like egg salad? It also tastes a lot like it, but it's made of crumbled tofu, and it is really good. I will say it has a longer list of ingredients than my egg salad did, but you also don't have to cook anything for this or peel eggs. Just crumble the tofu and mix with stuff and go. However, it tastes better after it's had a chance to sit for a bit for the flavors to meld, and given the relative blandness of tofu, the pinch of cayenne pepper was really important.

The potato salad, meanwhile, wasn't the best thing I've ever done, because I accidentally over salted the water while I boiled the potatoes. Oh, well. It tasted good, if too salty.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Temari Rabbit 2-Tier Bento #91

Some mini bagels, toasted; mini spice cookies; carrot lox; and a non-dairy cream cheese spread I made.

This is the inspiration for the recipe I used for carrot lox. I used apple cider vinegar rather than coconut and regular old iodized salt rather than coarse salt. And it was amazing. It does not taste like smoked salmon; to me, it still tastes like carrots, though a co-worker who tried it said it doesn't taste like carrots. She did say, however, that it is better than lox made from salmon, and she is an omnivore who has eaten a lot of lox in her life, so I haven't just experienced a change in tastes. It was pretty easy, too; the only real drawback is that you have to start two days ahead.

The Daiya cream cheese is actually good; I tried Trader Joe's and it disappointed me. If I can find some, I also want to try Kite Hill, but there are a lot of brands available, so I was pretty confident there would be at least one worth eating. I mixed the Daiya cream cheese with some chopped red onion and capers (this really just makes my usual sliced red onion and capers for a cream cheese and lox bagel more portable).

The non-dairy cream cheese costs a lot more than the dairy version, but carrot lox? Practically free compared to salmon. So. It evens out.

Carrot Lox
Serves: About 4-6

3 large carrots (don't peel or trim yet)
2 cups salt, plus more if needed to cover
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons liquid smoke
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Put a thick layer of salt (about half your salt) into a loaf pan. Wash the carrots and while they're still wet push into the salt, taking care not to let the carrots make direct contact with the pan. (You'll still have quite a thick layer of salt underneath.) This is easier to do if you tessellate the carrots. Add more salt to cover carrots completely.

Roast carrots for 90 minutes uncovered.

Remove carrots from oven. Dump the salt (now kind of  a giant salt crystal) into a large pan. Allow to cool until you can handle the salt rock thing.

Using a wooden spoon, carefully crack open the salt to reveal the carrots and gently remove them.

You can peel the carrots now but really you don't need to. Just make sure you don't have salt clinging to them.

In a bowl with a lid, mix oil, liquid smoke, and vinegar; set aside.

Slice the carrots thinly into uneven pieces. We're aiming for lox, not carrot coins.

Add carrots to the prepared marinade and stir gently to coat. Put in the fridge for two days to marinate. If they dry up in that time, add a little more oil.

Serve as you would regular old salmon lox, if you ate fish.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Pack-a-Snack #80

Apple slices sandwiched around peanut butter and pinwheels of scallion pancake and veggie ham (Yves).

Friday, June 2, 2017

Insulated Jar & Sides #24

It's Frito chili pie! VEGAN! No,really! Sour cream, scallions, tomatoes, vegetarian chili topped with cheddar, and Fritos.

I thought, when I began this process, that I would have to find entirely new foods to eat, and I have, but there have been a lot of pleasant surprises in the realm of the familiar. This is one of them.

I've tried a few different vegan sour creams, and this one is my favorite: Tofutti. It's not exactly good for you,but neither is dairy sour cream. So don't eat this in large quantities. But a few tablespoons here and there are probably fine. (Although I'll remind you: I'm a historian, not a medical doctor, so be sure to talk to yours if you have questions.)

Also, cheese: Non-dairy cheese has improved drastically since the last time I tried it (in the first term of George W. Bush, as I recall). You have to melt it, but if you do, it's pretty good. These are Daiya cheddar-style shreds. Here is one really big difference to me, though: I no longer want a lot of cheese. Just a little will do. It's more like a seasoning than a big part of the dish.

I recommend making your own chili, of course, but this will do in a pinch (Hormel).

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Happy Jackson Snack Boxes #25

Some veggie breakfast sausages (Field Roast), banana spice pancakes topped with banana slices and pecans, maple syrup, and grapes.

This is one of those days I was improvising with what I happened to have around. The pancakes are from a cinnamon spice pancake mix (most pancake mixes I've seen are vegan) to which I added half a mashed banana along with the water. I thought the sliced bananas might turn brown and look gross at lunch, but they didn't really. I was astonished.

I also wondered whether this would be palatable at room temperature. It was actually really good. Go figure.

Also, an added bonus: I didn't get syrup in my hair when I ate this, which is almost never the case with me eating pancakes.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

ECO Lunchbox Three-in-One #52

Raid-the-fridge salad (romaine lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, red onion, and vegan ranch (Just Ranch)), vegetarian baked beans, and corn and Parmesan pasta salad.

Remember what I told you about that green can of Parmesan? But I'm working my way through it. Not vegan today, but getting there.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Lunchopolis #32

I didn't make it to the store on the usual schedule, so this is just a simple lunch of half a veggie salami sandwich and Waldorf salad on a bed of romaine lettuce.

Though not especially impressive, this does give me an opportunity to tell you two things I've not yet told you about that I learned transitioning to veganism:

1. It is not that straightforward to find vegan bread. It should be, but it's not. I'll bet you think your bread is vegan, because unless it's egg bread (like challah) or cheesy or something, what could be in it? Whey.  It's everywhere. And if it doesn't have whey, it often has Vitamin D3 in it (a derivative of wool) or honey. I'm getting better at finding the vegan breads (Arnold's breads sometimes have whey, but several kinds of Arnold's bread don't, and the Sara Lee Artisan kind is okay), but early on in this process I found myself on the verge of tears in the bread aisle, wondering if there was anything in the world I could eat.

2. I've had many different kinds of vegan mayo, and honestly, most of them are really pretty good. I hated Trader Joe's store brand, but the rest are good. You wouldn't notice the absence of eggs. But Vegenaise makes a light version, so that's the one I've been getting lately. It's made with flax oil, which is a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids for those of us who aren't eating seafood.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Aer Lingus Vegan Meals

Happy Memorial Day! Today seemed like a good day to show you what Aer Lingus served me on my flights last month. It was the first time I ever called ahead for a special meal.

You have to do this, y'all. Seriously. Ordering the food ahead of time means you get served first and can run to the restroom while everyone else is stuck in their seats waiting for the cart to go by.

Lunch/Dinner #1:

This is a terribly blurry photo, and for that I apologize, but it was turbulent and dark and my seatmate was looking at me and my meal rather weirdly. So. I didn't try too hard to get a good picture.


It was fruit salad, margarine (incidentally: this is not vegan margarine; it has whey in it), a little green salad, water, vinaigrette, a roll, and a really impressive main dish of tofu with rice and sweet curry veggies. My seatmate was really jealous of this, given that she had some sort of sad pasta.

Also, I didn't photograph the breakfast, but it was also not vegan: A muffin and orange juice. Aer Lingus was trying but not quite getting it.

On my return flight, I got a much clearer photo.

Lunch/Dinner #2:

After the first impressive tofu meal, expectations were high. But this was just strange. There was a corn salad thing, fruit salad, actual vegan margarine this time, water, a roll, and pasta and veggies tossed in ridiculous quantities of sweet chili sauce. It was so spicy it made my nose run, and sweet chili sauce really shouldn't go on pasta and olives.

Also, it included this for the after dinner tea service:

Erm, Aer Lingus? Dairy free meals shouldn't come with milk. Sigh.

Also, why not offer more water or something, or even decaf tea and coffee, rather than just the straight stuff? The flight attendants acted like I was a loon for asking if they had anything without caffeine.

I will say, though, I had a great experience otherwise: My return flight was pretty empty, so I was on my own in my window seat and got to spread out to sleep. In general, on non-vegan issues, I recommend Aeir Lingus: They still gave everybody a pillow and a blanket for free, and it was pretty comfortable. And on vegan things, they're really trying. I hope they figure out how to get actual vegan margarine for all the flights and to leave milk off non-dairy trays, and maybe, if not too much to ask, that they put marinara on their pasta like normal people and offer people something other than just regular tea and coffee after dinner.

Also, the vegan snack they gave me, I guess because it wasn't breakfast but rather some sort of mid-afternoon meal, was a green salad and a fruit salad, which was quite a nice alternative to a dry prepackaged cookie that the non-vegans got. I was really excited about that one.

Friday, May 26, 2017

KOSOX 2-Tier Sushi Box #18

Baby carrots, cucumber slices, blackberries, veggie ham (Yves), veggie pepperoni (Yves), pretzel thins, olive hummus, and "everything" Ritz crackers.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Happy Jackson Snack Boxes #24

Cherry cobbler, baby carrots, cucumber slices, hummus, and "everything" Ritz crackers.

This homemade cherry cobbler was a gift from a neighbor. She made vegan cherry cobbler for me! And it was really good!

I'm an adult. When the going gets rough, I eat dessert for lunch, I guess. I recommend it, though, if you can claim it is mostly fruit, anyway.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Traveler's Lunch #6

Spinach sauteed with tomatoes and garlic, cucumber slices tossed with rice vinegar and black sesame seeds, Kung Pao cauliflower (Trader Joe's) with peanuts and scallions, rice, pinwheels of scallion pancake and veggie ham held together with tiny picks, and two little bottles of soy sauce (an elephant and a lion).

I like the Trader Joe's Kung Pao cauliflower, but anything Kung Pao should have nuts in it, shouldn't it? Peanuts or cashews? Seems standard to me, but oh, well, they're easy to add.

The veggie ham took some trying to find a good brand. I like Yves, and they also have really good pepperoni and salami.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

3-Tier Bottle Bento #35

Rice topped with black and white sesame seeds, spinach sauteed with garlic and tomatoes, and Szechuan-style beefless strips (Gardein) with broccoli and peppers.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Temari Rabbit Bento Bowl #18

A bowl of stuff that turns into soup when you add hot water (explanation below), apple slices, and chocolate peanut butter for dipping.

This concept is taken from Just Bento's miso soup balls, but involves slightly different ingredients.

I had some leftover rice pilaf, but wasn't in the mood to have it as a side again, so I made it into a soup (just add boiling water and stir). Here's how:

1. I sauteed finely chopped celery, onions, and carrots in vegan butter (Earth Balance).
2. I added a handful of bits of Beyond Chicken strips from my freezer and cooked those until they seemed done (I still don't fully understand when vegan meat is "done")
3. I added the rice and mixed everything all up
4. I put all this in the bottom of the bowl, then sprinkled with the green tops of chopped scallions
5. I added a tiny cup of Better than Bouillon to put in the broth later (If you haven't tried the "Not Chicken" flavor you should--I like it better than I used to like their actual chicken flavors)
6. At work, I added boiling water and stirred, then let it sit to warm up

It worked reasonably well and was at least as warm as soup in my insulated jar usually is.

And also there were apple slices.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Pack-a-Snack #78

Mini spice sandwich cookies (incidentally vegan), carrots, cucumbers, Melba toast, and hummus.

Friday, May 19, 2017

ECO Lunchbox Three-in-One #51

Mandarin orange sections, falafel balls, hummus, a tortilla, and cucumber slices. This lunch kind of refused to be photographed. The sun was doing weird things this morning.

This was meant to be a wrap but I didn't want the falafel to get soggy, so I packed it ready to assemble. It worked out really well.

The falafel was from the kosher frozen section. The kosher part of the store has become my transition-to-vegan secret weapon. It's not kosher to mix meat with dairy, which means you find a whole heck of a lot less hidden dairy over there. Plus, because kosher meat is so expensive, there are a lot of mock meat type things and plant-based protein sources, too. This lunch is entirely (and incidentally) vegan.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Traveler's Lunch #5

Because this is how real transition goes, this is not vegan. Pescatarian, I suppose, but not vegan.

I had these seafood dumplings in my freezer and I have been reluctant to eat them, which is weird for a variety of reasons. So today was the day. In they went in this random recycled container (which you've seen twice this week, bewilderingly!) with a cup of homemade dipping sauce and a simple cucumber salad (cucumbers, rice vinegar, black sesame seeds).

If you're cutting down on meat, etc., you might want to consider the black sesame seeds sometimes. They are a reasonably good source of iron, compared to white sesame seeds.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Skater Lunch Box #22

Mashed potatoes topped with scallions (for color), steamed carrots tossed in vegan butter with salt and off-brand Mrs. Dash, a Boca spicy chick'n patty (quartered), and strawberries.

This is also an entirely vegan lunch. I have found mashed potatoes with soy milk works out best, if you're keeping score. I tried them with oat milk once and that was a really big mistake.

The Boca chick'n patties are much better than they used to be. I like the spicy ones.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Happy Jackson Snack Boxes #23

Raid-the-fridge salad (mixed lettuces, avocado, tomato, red onion), Bac'n pieces, a cup of Just Ranch, a Gardein pizza pocket, and strawberries.

This one is altogether vegan. I'm giving brand names so you know what I'm getting, not because they have anything to do with the blog. (Not enough of you read this for that anyway.) But I was super excited to find a vegan pizza anything that wasn't gluten free. I want the gluten! Just not the dairy or meat. These tasted about like cheap frozen pizza did, from what I remember, and really hit the spot.

Just Ranch, from Hampton Creek, is one of the things that makes me happy I live in a vegan-friendly area, because as you can tell (I'm sure) ranch is a favorite flavor for me.

The Bac'n pieces are incidentally vegan. I am sure I have mentioned this before at some point.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Traveler's Lunch #4

I had no idea where to begin with my packed lunch backlog, so I'm starting with the present and I'll throw in old things now and then. This is leftover spaghetti and Gardein meatless meatballs in a garlic tomato sauce with Parmesan cheese I had around and some steamed broccoli tossed in a bit of Earth Balance vegan butter, salt, and off-brand Mrs. Dash.

This is not the good Parmesan. That stuff will mold after a few months. No, this is the stuff in a plastic canister with a green lid that seems to have no end. So here it is. At some point I'll get or make some vegan Parmesan, or try the suggested alternative of nutritional yeast.

The spaghetti noodles are the kind made with vegetables so you get more vitamins and whatnot.

So far as vegan transitioning goes, this is pretty basic level stuff. Nothing scary. Meatless meatballs are available lots of places and are used pretty much the same as traditional frozen meatballs are. I never was much for tossing my veggies in butter, but this really did amazing things to the broccoli.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

An Update

Hello. It's been a while. I didn't mean for it to be. I haven't known exactly what to say, because I have been in a major flux and having a sort of crisis of food identity or something, and then my country had an election, and I was a bit overwhelmed by the cultural and political shifts, and then some other stuff happened.

So. I have a new and very unpopular president, one fewer living relative, one parent no longer hospitalized, and a new-to-me car I didn't expect to have to buy, in addition to a new outlook on food.

Also, I went to England, which was gorgeous.

After my vacation, which was a much-needed respite with lots of hiking in West Yorkshire, I decided I wanted to talk to you guys again. But I need to tell you something first.

You may have already seen a sort of change in what I was eating. I did research into nutrition after my northeastern climate gave me a severe Vitamin D deficiency. I learned a lot from this research, and it also got me thinking about what our food choices mean--why we eat what we eat, and what impact it has beyond ourselves.

After a lot of flailing around and anxious bargaining I think came from a kind of grieving process, I reached the personal conclusion that I needed to transition to a plant-based diet. But what, then, of Food for Dissertating?

What we decide to eat is very personal. I was in a fragile state for a while for so many reasons and I knew that some people would have difficulty with the choice I've made. I had enough trouble with unsolicited criticism in the real world from people with apparently very strong opinions about not eating animal products and needed to go silent for a while. I didn't mean to go silent for so long.

In the end, though, I still enjoyed making appealing lunches for work and I was still taking photographs of them, and I still kind of wanted to share them. So you'll be seeing my lunches again soon.

I'm still in transition, not because I buy any animal products--I managed to stop doing that after a few weeks--but because I had an astounding number of animal-based things in my kitchen to get through. If you've never really thought about what is in what, it is an eye opening thing to make this sort of change. Dairy turned up in a variety of unexpected places, from bread to guacamole-flavored tortilla chips. Eggs began to frustrate me, as even my favorite vegetarian corn dogs had eggs in them. But I'm learning, and I'm eating new things. I feel more sure of myself now.

Veganism is a bit fraught these days. I am not, nor, I suspect, will I ever be, vegan enough for some people. I joined and left a vegan forum over a heated argument about who gets to call themselves vegan and who doesn't, and whether one can still associate with non-vegans and really be vegan. For some, me leaving up my omnivore lunches and my omnivore recipes online would be the wrong way to go. But I have to do what makes sense to me, so I'm not starting a new blog, at least for now. You'll still see transitional lunches sometimes because A) I've got a zillion pictures of said lunches to get through and B) every so often I open my freezer and find, say, some frozen shrimp under some veggies and I know throwing them out without eating them helps nothing and no one. Also, Worcestershire sauce seems to last forever and so I have no idea when I will end up buying vegan Worcestershire. But I am not buying animal-based foods anymore and the majority of my meals are vegan. At some point, they will all be vegan. I thought seeing that transition might also be useful to some people.

I thought about saying nothing about all this and just posting lunches, but I really didn't want to just come back with no explanation. A change in diet will be obvious. I hope if you've enjoyed Food for Dissertating you'll continue to stick around. My lunches, I believe, will still be broadly useful as inspiration to vegans and non-vegans. It turns out, as frustrating as avoiding hidden animal products can be, a whole lot of what all of us eat already is vegan. So yes, you'll see some new and unusual foods, or at least they're new to me. But there is plenty of stuff I'm eating now that I always did.

Enough pontificating. See you for lunch on Monday.