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.

Anyway.

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.