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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

New-To-You Food Guide

  • Ground "beef" is an animal-friendly version of the real thing.  You can find it in most grocery stores or you can make it using TVP (see below).  Brands include Gimme Lean and Boca.
  • Nutritional yeast is an inactive, vitamin- and mineral-rich yeast that adds a cheesy flavor to soups, casseroles or in place of cheese to make any dish creamier.
  • Seitan (SAY-tan), also known as gluten or wheat meat, is a delicious, high-protein meat substitute.  Seitan can be found prepackaged in many grocery stores.  Brands include White Wave and Lightlife.
  • Soy margarine is a tasty, non-dairy version of butter without the cholesterol or cruelty.  Brands include Earth Balance and Willow Run.
  • Soy milk is a healthy alternative to cow's milk and is widely available in grocery stores everywhere.  Soy milk can be substituted for milk in any recipe.  Brands include Silk, Edensoy, and WestSoy.
  • Tahini is a calcium-rich, creamy, sesame seed paste often used in Middle Eastern cuisine.
  • Textured vegetable protein (TVP) is a dried soy product that substitutes for ground beef in stews, chilis, pasta sauce, and more.
  • Tofu is a versatile, high-protein soy product readily available in many different textures from silken (great in smoothies and desserts) to extra firm; happily absorbs surrounding flavors and spices.
  • Vegan mayonnaise is a creamy egg- and dairy-free version of mayonnaise.  Available in most health food stores.  Brands include Follow Your Heart and Nasoya.
  • Veggie sausage links are meat-free alternatives, rich in protein and flavor.  Available in most grocery stores.  Brands include Tofurky and Lightlife.
Hi-dee hi-dee knowledge is golden-ho my friends!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hmm... I Can Make This

Greetings from the land of misunderstood dolls with daggers.  I celebrated Tiffany's birthday last night at Carrabba's restaurant.  While her parents elected to feast on a carnivorous meal selection, Tiffany and I both stayed true to our new ways.

Pasta Sostanza

We ordered and shared a Quattro Formaggi  brick oven pizza and Pasta Sostanza.  Of course there was also the Happy Hour buy-1-get-1-free house Cabernet Sauvignon.  Coincidentally, their house Cab is a brand called Copper Ridge.  Unfortunately, Copperridge wine is a special brand made by the Gallo Winery that is only available through restaurants, usually as their "house brand".  But, of course, it can be purchased online.  After all, everything has a price doesn't it?  No... I will NOT sell my dagger!

Quottro Formaggi Pizza - Sundried tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, romano, mozzarella, fontina and goat cheese.  Baked in a 600-degree brick oven.

Pasta Sostanza -  Tagliarini pasta with sautéed mushrooms, artichoke hearts and spinach in tomato basil sauce topped with seasoned breadcrumbs.

Both dishes were exceptional, as with every Carrabba's menu choice.  Particularly tickling my plastic fancy was the Pasta Sostanza.  Truly stupendous and I can honestly recall the pleasurable culinary experience that I had last night when my mind does its' magic.

Yes!  You've guessed it my friend.  I find myself having to replicate that recipe.  So today, Tiffany and I scoured our local market and purchased sufficient ingredient.  We bought some fresh pasta and fresh basil from Eat More Produce.  I had some jarred artichoke hearts in oil from Costco but I want to make it ultra-healthy.  Instead, we dropped by Target to purchase a can of artichoke heart in water.  I already have some fresh mushroom, crushed garlic, and Bragg's no-salt seasoning.

I plan to "wing it" when making my replicate dish.  I'll simply toast some crushed garlic in a Pam sprayed non-stick pan until toasted to perfection.  Then add some crushed tomatoes, Bragg's seasoning, diced mushroom, artichoke hearts, fresh basil and fresh baby spinach.   I'll probably include a few diced kalamata olives.  Simmer on the side while I cook the fresh pasta.  Bring the two together, top it with a skosh of Italian bread crumbs, and see what I end up with.

Hey!  I'll let you know how it goes, okay?

Hi-dee hi-dee dine on it and then try recreating it-ho my culinary vegetarian friends!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

First Vegetarian Thanksgiving Review

Hi everyone!  I hope that each and everyone of you were able to celebrate Thanksgiving with family, friends, and loved ones.  May it have provided a solace of peace and may you have found reason for giving thanks to anything heartfelt and true.

Well... Tiffany and my first vegetarian Thanksgiving is behind us and how did it go?  To be truthful, it was a delicious and pleasant as with any Thanksgiving celebration past.  

No, neither Tiffany nor I felt deprived of anything from the Thanksgiving table nor did our carnivore family members feel intimidated by our healthy lifestyle choice.  Everyone had a wonderful time and I even succeeded in my in-laws trying a small piece of Quorn turk'y roast.  Both of them thought it delicious and very much a true turkey texture.  No, we're not going to get them to convert but I truly appreciated their tasting the sample that had been offered.

Give it time.  When they see the change in weight, color in cheeks, and energy in limbs; they may contemplate making a change themselves?  Oh yes, my father-in-law was impressed with fresh homemade almond milk for his cereal as way mother-in-law by the morning veggie (kale, collard green, spinach, and banana) smoothie.

Everything was delicious, nutritious, and filling.  Like all Thanksgivings of my past, I found myself sitting in front of the television watching football and asking myself, "Why did you eat that much Chucky?"

"If anything, what was missing from your first vegetarian Thanksgiving, Chucky?"  I can think of only one thing that would be largely missing from the table had we not shared it with our carnivore family members.  That is the non-human animal turkey itself.  Had we only the Quorn turk'y roast on the table, the shape of the real turkey would be lacking.  But, I cannot speak for you but I don't eat shape.

Hi-dee hi-dee have a wonderful day-ho to one and all!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Roasted Red Pepper Cashew Spread

Source:  flavorvegan
(makes approximately 1-1/2 cups)

Cashews, peppers, vinegar, salt, and yeast flakes

  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 2 roasted red peppers
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice or balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes 

Ready to launch... 3... 2... 1...
  1. Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth.
  2. Serve with bread, in sandwiches, on top of pizzas and so much more.
Houston.  We have lift-off!

Nutrition per tablespoon

Hi-dee hi-dee nut spread-ho to all!

Print Recipe

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Chucky Has Died And Gone To Vegan Heaven

Three simple letters... O-M-G!  Tiffany and I revisited The Loving Hut this past Saturday and found a most tremendous surprise.  Their all-you-can-eat buffet is no longer on Sunday but has been changed to Saturday!  And, it no longer begins at 3:00 PM but now begins at 11:00 AM.

I kid you not, every single dish on the buffet was totally delicious!  In case you missed it in an earlier blog, The Loving Hut is a worldwide vegan restaurant chain.  We're lucky enough to have one of the 24 US locations here in Orlando, Florida.  They may look at us strangely when two little plastic dolls come strolling into their establishment but they are friendly and made our visit a total delight.

The price?  About $10 per person.  How can they do it?

A sampling on Tiffany's plate

Here is what we found on Saturday's buffet:
  • Steamed white rice
  • Fried rice, tofu, mushroom and mixed vegetables
  • Green salad (iceberg lettuce and fresh spinach)
  • Almond flax dressing
  • Pasta salad with broccoli, red pepper, and fresh basil in a light sweet sauce
  • Steamed cubed tofu with thin onion and shitake mushroom slices in a light cream sauce
  • TVP pieces in a Bragg's type seasoning with blanched green beans, red pepper and broccoli
  • Stir-fry TVP in a hoisin-like sesame sauce
  • Crispy fried rolls with carrot, shredded cabbage, mushroom, tofu, jicama, and bean thread; served with Au Lac (tomato based) dipping sauce on the side
  • Cauliflower, broccoli, and long stir-fry tofu strips
  • Fried tofu and eggplant in sticky sweet soy sauce
  • Soup (ingredients:  water, tomato, onion, tofu and fresh basil)
  • Watermelon pieces
  • Mini muffins - carrot cake and banana nut flavors
  • Water
Tiffany had water but I had to have my favorite Asian beverage, hot chrysanthemum tea (extra charge, of course).

Every single dish was tasty, fresh and healthy.  After we ate, arrived home, sat on the back patio, sipped some wine, we discussed our buffet experience.  Both Tiffany and I both agree that it's impossible to pick a favorite.  Each was a winner in its own right.  Nothing was overwhelming or greasy.  Each bite was delectable and sang songs of joy upon our palates.  If there truly is heaven, then it includes a Loving Hut buffet every day for lunch.

Wish you could have been there!  I promise to bring my camera with me on our next visit.  The photo above was snatched from the camera phone.

Hi-dee hi-dee Shangri-La-ho my friend!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Chucky Is Ready For Vegetarian Thanksgiving #1

Quorn turk'y roast & vegan gravy mix

Okay, it's time to talk about the first vegetarian Thanksgiving for Tiffany and I.  First and foremost, "What is mistake gravy?"  Uh... er... I only just recognized that I picked up the wrong gravy mix from Hoovers Essential Health Market.  Bad mistake.  Ugh!  Upon closer review of the ingredients, it contains non-human animal ingredient!  Bad Chucky!

Now, what am I going to do?  Actually, I do plan to go ahead and use it.  When Tiffany and I elected to become vegetarians, we made some decisions contradictory to the vegetarian lifestyle.  Initially we thought about using up our carnivore products stashed away in the pantry and freezer.  We ultimately decided that we could not stomach to do so.

However, we did agree to use up existing bullion cubes and meat-based broths that we had on-hand.  Slowly and methodically, we will wean ourselves from these products.  We've already moved from dairy milk to almond milk and am trying desperately to find an acceptable dairy cheese alternative.

To further support our decision to go ahead and utilize this "mistake gravy", we were already aware that Tiffany's mother will be making a big 'ol turkey for Thanksgiving.  In all probability, the stuffing will contain turkey juices and perhaps giblet.  We agreed to simply bring a Quorn turk'y roast with us. Everything other than the bird itself we hope to try.

UPDATE:  My conscience was killing me.  When I got up this morning I changed my mind.  The "mistake gravy" mix shall be donated to the in-laws.  Instead, I dropped by my local Chamberlin's Natural Foods and purchased some vegan gravy mix!  I had to retake a picture (above) of myself  and modify this blog prior to posting.  I am so much happier now.

I suspect this time next year we'll be true to our heart and go absolutely vegetarian.  In all fairness to Tiffany's mother, we didn't give her much notice of our intent to convert to vegetarianism.

Okay.  Now that this is out of the way, what are Chucky and Tiffany bringing to the Thanksgiving table and living room coffee table for the football games?

Okay.  One last time.  "What is Quorn?"  "Is it a tofu based product?"  No.  In a nutshell, it's man-made vat manufactured fungus.  Both Tiffany and I believe to taste superior to soy-based turkey (Tofurky) but that's probably simply a matter of opinion.  Unlike it's Tofurky counterpart, Quorn is not vegan as it contains some egg product.

    Stella Rosa, Cabernet Sauvignon, & Malbec

    • Il Duca Imperiale 1917 Stella Rosa - Piedmont, Italy.  Sparkling sweet red wine to be paired with desert.  Show me a wine from the Piedmont region anything less than spectacular and I'll show you a forgery!!!
    • 2010 Woodbridge Cabernet Sauvignon - Woodbridge, California.  The "everyday" wine.  This particular wine is the house wine at Bahama Breeze restaurant.  My mother-in-law's favorite general purpose Cabernet Sauvignon.
    • 2007 Norton Malbec Reserva - Mendoza, Argentina.  Haven't ever tried this particular Malbec but Argentina produces some great values in Malbecs.  We purchased this autographed bottle directly from the vintner who was at our local Costco promoting his French oak aged Malbec.  A truly polite and nice gentleman.  Oh yeah, he is obviously a very hard worker as his fingernails were not that of someone who simply sits behind a big desk.  I cannot go wrong here folks.  Chucky loves big bold fruity wines!  Yummy!
     Hi-dee hi-dee Happy Thanksgiving-ho everyone!

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010

    Asian Sesame Noodles

    Tiffany has an office Thanksgiving celebration tomorrow and what will she take into the office?  After all, this our very first vegetarian Thanksgiving.  She'll simply forgo the bird and leave it to the office carnivores.  Instead, there will be a plethora of non-meat choices to delight the palate.

    So, what is Tiffany bringing to the non-human animal consumption party?  She has made Asian Sesame Noodles (today's recipe) and Roasted Red Pepper Cashew Spread (recipe for another day).  Tiffany and I were first introduced to Asian Sesame Noodles at a friends house in Ocala, Florida where our guests had a wine-pairing party.  Absolutely delicious and totally unique.

    Asian Sesame Noodles

    Adapted from Williams-Sonoma "Complete Entertaining Cookbook"
    Serves 10 to 12.

    • 2 boxes pasta noodles
    • 1/2 cup sesame oil
    • 1/2 cup black soy sauce
    • 3 Tbsp black Chinese vinegar
    • 3 Tbsp sugar
    • 1 1/2 Tbsp salt
    • 2 Tbsp hot pepper oil
    • 1/2 cup finely sliced scallions (green and white parts) 

    Ingredients:  soy, vinegar, black sesame oil, hot pepper oil

    1 bunch = 1/2 cup chopped scallion

    1. In a large pot of boiling water, cook the noodles according to package direction. Drain, rinse well under cold running water until chilled, and drain again.  Put in large bowl.
    2. Combine remaining ingredients.  Stir into cold noodles, mixing well (use hands to distribute sauce evenly).  Chill overnight.
    Rinsed pasta (exciting huh?)
    Combined sauces

    It's the classic Chinese flavor.  The perfect combination of sweet, salt, and hot pepper.  The flavors meld perfectly in this recipe and the ingredients thoroughly lock onto each piece of pasta.  You will amaze your friends with the exotic tastes dancing upon their lips and tongue.

    Nutrition per cup

    Hi-dee hi-dee make the office happy-ho my friends!

    Monday, November 22, 2010

    Chipotle Black Bean Soup

    Adapted from recipe from Goya.

    Makes eight 1-cup servings.

    One serving with dollop of non-fat Greek yogurt.

    Tiffany and I realize that we weren't consuming enough legumes in our diet these past few days.  We've been doing excellent on the rice, vegetables, and fruits but lacking on legumes.  So, it was time to make some Chipotle Black Bean Soup.

    The basic difference between Goya's recipe and mine?  Sssh... I didn't use Goya brand.  Also used 2 chipotles instead of 1 because Tiffany and I like really spicy food.  Goya recommends olive oil and I used coconut oil and I only had red onion on-hand, not yellow onion.  Oh yeah!  Almost forgot... I added the frozen corn and cocoa powder.  Dunno whether you've ever added cocoa powder to a spicy dish (like chili).  It does something magical to the pepper flavor!

    • 3 cans (15.5 oz) black beans, divided
    • 2 chipotles, plus 2 tsp sauce from 1 can Chipotle Chiles in Adobe Sauce
    • 2 cups vegetable broth
    • 1 Tbsp organic 100% coconut oil
    • 1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
    • 1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
    • 1/2 green bell pepper, finely chopped
    • 1 cup frozen yellow corn
    • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
    • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
    • 3/4 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1/2 cup fat-free Greek style yogurt
    1. In bowl of blender, add 1 can of black beans, chipotles and broth.  Puree until smooth, about 30 seconds; set aside.
    2. Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat.  Add onions and peppers; cook until soft, about 10 minutes.  Add garlic and cumin; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds more.  Add reserved black bean puree, remaining black beans and cocoa powder; bring mixture  to a boil; reduce heat to medium low and cook, stirring occasionally, until soup thickens and flavors come together, about 10 minutes.
    3. Divide soup evenly among 8 serving bowls.  Top with a dollop of yogurt.
    Sauteing onions and pepper in coconut oil.

    Early stage of cooking before thickening.

    The verdict my friends?  No, it's not as good as it looks.  It's even better!  :)  Delicious, spicy and hearty.  Hey!  Look at the calories.  (Gawd I love pointing that out!)

    Nutrition per serving (1 cup).

    Hi-dee hi-dee delicious & nutritious soup-ho my friends!

    Print Recipe

    Sunday, November 21, 2010

    Chucky & Tiffany Love IKEA!

    With my catalog, hat, jalapeno, Bragg's and dagger.

    IKEA is not only a wonderful place for great values but also a simple breakfast value!  I don't know whether you are familiar with IKEA or not but each store has a cafeteria.  The cafeteria opens one half hour before the store officially opens for business.  They have a $0.99 breakfast every weekend morning (it's free during weekdays).  Its called the "Small Breakfast" and includes scrambled eggs, hash brown potato, and two strips of bacon.  For $1.99 you will get same plus three strips of French toast ("Regular Breakfast").

    Tiffany and I always try to get to IKEA when the cafeteria opens.  We enjoy the $0.99 breakfast, a cup of coffee and wait for them to open the sales floor one half hour later. But what are two vegetarians to do now? We don't do meat any longer.

    Oh no!  No more IKEA breakfasts?  "Most certainly not my dear friends!"  It's now time for "I'll have the small breakfast.  Hold the bacon, please."  What did Chucky and Tiffany do today?  They took along a jar of Bragg's organic seasoning and a zip-lock bag of sliced fresh jalapenos. A most delicious scrambled egg and hash potato breakfast, I might add.

    Now that we are no longer carnivores, Tiffany and I must adjust, get creative and think outside of the culinary box.  It's no longer, "What do they have on their menu?"  It's now, "Based upon what's on their menu, what choices can I make?"

    In truth, it has not been difficult these past 51-days.  Just about the only place not really catering to vegetarians is McDonald's and Wendy's.  Not that I have the slightest inkling but Burger King has a veggie patty burger menu selection.  Yes, both McDonald's and Wendy's have their salads but it that really offering non-carnivores true menu choice?  Psst... bypassing the fast-food burger joints really isn't a loss to either Tiffany or I.

    Okay.  There are many other franchise chains also not catering to our new lifestyle.  But, more places offer us choices than those who do not.  

    This morning a free burger offer from a national restaurant chain arrived in Tiffany's e-mail to celebrate her upcoming birthday.  "But I can't use it.  It's for a hamburger and I no longer do carnivore." Tiffany said.  Then I explained that there are two possibilities which may exist:  (a) they may have a vegetarian burger on their menu or (b) inform the server that you're a vegetarian.  I'm almost certain that the manager would allow substitution of any vegetarian selection of equal or lesser value.  They're not going to shun you because you happen to be a vegetarian.  Instead, they wish to acknowledge and celebrate your birthday.

    Tiffany?  Oh, she's going to be a little over 18-years old in a few days.  (No dog house for Chucky.)

    Hi-dee hi-dee IKEA-ho my friends!

    Saturday, November 20, 2010

    Tofu BLT

    Ha!  You saw yesterday's blog didn't you?  What?  You didn't!  What's wrong with you?  There is some really good stuff snuck in the crevices of my blogs.  Live a little!  Laugh a little!  Waste just a little bit of you time on me, okay?  Thanks, friend.

    Yesterday I made my first batch of Tofu Bacon and shared with you.  Why would I want the stuff?  Is it because I absolutely love and miss bacon?  Actually, I do like bacon but never ate much of it when I was a (ugh) carnivore.  But, one thing that I truly do miss bacon for... the BLT (Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato) sandwich.

    Man, you guys are quick!  Yeah.  This blog is about making a BLT using Tofu Bacon.  What's that, you say?  Yes.  Perhaps my blog title gave it away?



    • Bread - Any good quality bread.  Grill or toast it.  I grilled mine using a cast iron skillet.
    • Vegenaise - I prefer the low-fat blend.
    • Lettuce - Be generous my friend.  It's not gonna bite.
    • Tomato - Fresh, juicy, and screaming to be used.
    • Tofu Bacon - 4 slices per sandwich.
    • Fresh ground pepper.
    • Sprinkle of sea salt.
    Oops!  I missed a piece of tofu bacon.
    Now we're getting somewhere!
    It's nutritional, yummy and calorie friendly.  Remember, I simply use Pam or nothing at all when grilling my bread.  The calories pretty much originate from the bread, vegenaise, and tofu bacon.

    Nutrition for one sandwich
    Hi-dee hi-dee delicious sandwich-ho my friends!

    Friday, November 19, 2010

    Tofu Bacon

    Adapted from:  VegWeb (recipe submitted by Julie Gross)

    • 1 package firm tofu (each block carefully sliced into 16 pieces)
    • 6 Tbsp soy sauce (low sodium)  <-- try Lee Kum Kee brand, you'll love it!
    • 1 1/2 tsp liquid smoke
    • Pepper (freshly ground)
    • Nutritional yeast flakes (optional)
    1.  Mix soy sauce and liquid smoke.  Set aside.
    2.  Heat seasoned cast iron skill over medium-low heat.  Spray with Pam
         cooking spray.  In small batches as necessary, add tofu slices.

    Tofu slices added to seasoned cast iron skillet

    3.  Set the timer for 5-minutes and carefully move tofu slices throughout
         the process.
    4.  Spray top of slices with Pam before flipping and cooking another 5-
         minutes, moving occasionally.

    Flipped after 5-minutes

    5.  Based upon appearance, flip again and continue cooking until crisp golden
    6.  Carefully spoon soy sauce + liquid smoke mix using appropriate portion of
         mixture (based on how many batches it's going to take).
    7.  Grind fresh pepper onto tofu slices.
    8.  Sprinkle with nutritional yeast flakes (optional).
    9.  Repeat process until all strips have been prepared.

    "It's BACON!  Vegetarians don't know it's not bacon!"

    Ha!  It's killing you, isn't it?  Inquiring minds wanna know, "So?  How was it?"  "Does it really taste just like bacon?"  "How about the texture?" Gosh ~ you folks are the inquisitive bunch!

    No.  It does not taste exactly like bacon.  But, let's be honest here.  Does any non-meat substitute truly taste exactly like its carnivore counterpart?  No.  Perhaps the correct question would be, "Does it taste good?"  "Is it delicious?"  "Would you make it again?"  The answer to these questions my friends is yes, yes and yes.

    It is scrumptious, is quite similar to bacon, is both crispy and chewy, and look at the nutrition below.  You can't go wrong with tofu, folks!  I do need to refine the recipe and method.  Maybe tweak the ratio of soy sauce and liquid smoke.  Maybe add a skoosh of sea salt.  Perhaps set the range one level higher?

    However, you can't go wrong.  It's simple, delicious, and nutritious.  Isn't that what we're truly looking for?  I want it to be effortless. It has to taste good.  And it can't be calorie laden (for me).

    Nutrition per slice
    Hi-dee hi-dee yummy bacon-ho my friends!

    Print Recipe

    Thursday, November 18, 2010

    A Plea for Hygiene

    Hi everybody.  I know.  It's a little off the beaten path tonight.  I thought that I'd share an office dilemma that I felt forced to address today.  Sadly, probably not unheard of in today's office environment.

    Hey!  Can a plastic doll have his privacy please?

    What to do about an office hygiene problem?  How best to handle it within the confines of a very small company.

    Let me explain the company that I work for.  It's a very small company of only nine employees, myself included.  Of the nine employees, five are basically "Chiefs" and three of us are "Indians".  Besides the product that we make, we are absolute experts at micro-management techniques.  Perhaps you might say that it's perfected where I work.

    Here is the situation and an e-mail that I sent to the entire organization this afternoon:

    I know what you're thinking right now.  "Chucky.  Why didn't you just go to your manager and explain the situation?"  To put it politely, my manager hasn't the slightest business acumen.  His people skills are absent and he is only capable of making a bad situation worse.  If I had to guess, he would probably call out the individual in front of everyone and made everyone feel uncomfortable.

    Now.  Before you go chastising me for taking the approach that I did, let me explain what I first did.  I first indirectly informed the company's owner of the situation via a neutral party.  I truly believe that the neutral party informed the owner of the situation but he elected not to do anything about.  I was hoping for a company-wide e-mail from top management similar to mine.  Short, sweet, and non-accusatory.  Our company owner is a true practitioner of the maybe-if-I-don't-act-it-will-simply-go-away business management philosophy.  His sole function is to lead without understanding and to direct without inquiring.

    Should I catch this individual a fourth time?  At that point I feel obliged to simply call them out to make note of their act.  I honestly believe they are not even aware what they are doing.  Perhaps they were raised behind the barn somewhere between the out-house and dog house?

    So... what would you do?  What would you have done differently?  Should Chucky have pulled out his dagger?  "Kill, Chucky!  Kill!"

    Hi-dee hi-dee hygienic-ho my friends!

    Wednesday, November 17, 2010

    Crock Cheeze (Mock Cheese Spread)

    Credit:  Veg For Life

    This cheddar-style spread is sharp, tangy and rich.  It's reminiscent of the aged spreads found in small, brown pottery crocks in gourmet restaurants and specialty food shops.

    Why do I absolutely love this recipe?  It could not be easier to make.  It tastes delicious and is excellent with crackers or as a sandwich spread.  OMG!  And look at the calories (see below).  Vegan, healthy, and low-calorie.

    • 1/2 pound regular tofu (firm), rinsed, patted dry, and crumbled
    • 3 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
    • 2 Tbsp tahini
    • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
    • 1 1/2 Tbsp light miso
    • 1 tsp onion powder
    • 3/4 tsp salt
    • 1/2 tsp paprika
    • 1/4 tsp granulated garlic
    • 1/4 tsp dry mustard

    Miso, tahini, and tofu

    Nutritional yeast flakes

    1.  Place all ingredients in a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process until very smooth.  Stop the processor occasionally to stir the mixture and scrape the sides of the work bowl.

    Raw ingredients in food processor

    Cuisinart does its job

    2.  Spoon the mixture into a storage container and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving.  It will keep for about a week in the refrigerator.

    2 cup Pyrex dish contains caloric gold

    Yield:  2 cups

    Nutrition per tablespoon

    Print Recipe

    Tuesday, November 16, 2010

    Observations - Day #47 as a Vegetarian

    Hi everyone!  Let's keep this short 'n simple today, okay?

    It's day #47 of my life as a vegetarian.  What am I able to share with you at this point?  Actually folks, it isn't too much at this particular time.  In the Vegetarian Land of my mind, I truly expected tremendously wonderful things by now.  Something beyond achievement perhaps?   Probably.  But, here's what I can say beyond a doubt:
    • I cannot see Russia from my front porch.  I can't even see Cuba from here in Florida!
    • It was not difficult giving up meat.  Of course, I never really much of a red meat eater to begin with.
    • Everything that I now consume is phenomenally better tasting.  I suspect that this may be a result of the body's detoxification process.
    • Vegetarianism is not a "magic pill" for immediate weight loss.  I still must closely monitor calories.
    • I'm trying and tasting foods that I probably would not have otherwise tried.  I have enjoyed some absolutely delicious dishes.
    • Vegans and vegetarians are all very nice friendly people.  Everywhere I go, staff and people in the health market and vegan/vegetarian restaurants are so polite.  They bend over backwards to share their knowledge and lend a guiding hand.
    • There is a whole heck of a lot of science behind vegetarianism.  Who knew what enzymes were or what they did for the human body before October 1st?
    • I may never learn to chew properly but I keep trying.  Chewing your food 30 or more times before swallowing serves several purposes:  releases hidden desired enzymes inside whole (non-chewed) food particles, converts starches into digestible sugars by use of salivation, and allows the body's chemistry to more quickly announce to the brain, "We're done.  We're full now."
    • I am shocked with the abundant use of growth hormones, antibiotics, and such fed to our meat source.  Thereby, passed along to the meat-eater.  But on a good note... our government (FDA, USDA, etc.) will protect us!  Won't it?
    • There are no "animals".  There are only "non-human animals".
    In summary, I have absolutely no regret for making our change.  Mentally and within my infrastructure, I've never felt better!  I anticipate these feelings to grow and grow and grow.

    Hi-dee hi-dee progress towards health-ho my friends!

    Sunday, November 14, 2010

    Quick 'n Easy, Down 'n Dirty Dinner

    What's for dinner? It's Sunday.  We had a nice relaxing day.  The weekend is winding down.  And neither Tiffany nor I want to make a fuss for dinner.  What are we to do?

    Make it simple, make it quick, and make it vegetarian of course!  Let's use items that we have on-hand and dinner must be easy to prepare.  Tiffany and I made a quick Tomato and Grilled Zucchini Pizza and Spicy Miso Soup with Tofu and Greens.

    Tomato and Grilled Zucchini Pizza

    (Sorry for the over exposure.)
    • 1 pre-made pizza crust
    • 3 Tbsp pesto sauce
    • 1 tomato, thinly sliced
    • 1 zucchini, grilled slices sprinkled with Bragg's seasoning
    • Shredded cheese, miscellaneous from fridge.

    I've got to give Jenn over at full credit.  In my case, I used what I had on-hand:  red miso paste, red onion, collard green, fresh ground pepper, nutritional yeast flakes and smoked tofu.  I took liberty to added some seaweed flake into my preparation for added health.  

    Jenn, your soup recipe totally rocks!  Thanks!  It's going to be a quick and easy staple in our household.

    Mmm... Both were delicious and Tiffany and I have enough left over to reheat for another meal!  I love left-overs.  I've always felt that the spices and flavors have a chance to mingle while resting in the refrigerator.

    Hi-dee hi-dee it doesn't have to be difficult-ho my friends!

    Saturday, November 13, 2010

    Donizetti's "Don Pasquale"

    Chucky enjoys the opera!
    "What?"  "What's this?"  "Just what in the heck is going on here?"  "I thought that this was a vegetarian blog?"  Hmm... Let me check that hyperlink again.  "Nope."  "My browser is linked to so what gives?"

    Tiffany and I went to see Gaetano Donizetti's "Don Pasquale" and it was fantastic!  Absolutely fantastic.  3-hours and 15-minutes absolutely well spent.

    This is why I decided to write this blog.  I wanted to share The Metropolitan Opera's "Live in HD" program.  Basically, you purchase a ticket to your local movie theater, sit and enjoy a live opera broadcast.

    This was Tiffany and my fourth opera.  We were introduced to the program in just enough time to catch the last live opera of the 2009-2010 MET Live in HD season (Gioachino Rossini's "Armida" staring Renée Fleming).  We have subsequently enjoyed "Das Rheingold" and "Boris Godunov" during the current season.

    I wanted to share some observations that I was previously unaware until we discovered the wonderful program:
    • It's very affordable.  Only $22.00/ticket in our hometown.
    • Excellent well-behaved theater crowd.  
    • All operas are sub-titled in your local language.
    • You are offered a scene-by-scene synopsis sheet prior to start of the show.  Additionally, the MET offers synopsis sheets online prior to the day of the event.
    • You get live behind-the-scene coverage with cast interviews and all of the gears, wires, cogs, and stage equipment rolled and hoisted to present the show.  I find the behind-the-scene mechanical engineering absolutely fascinating!
    • For the longer opera events, there are intermissions.  Today's was 20-minutes as they redid the behind-the-curtain set.
    • An opera is a most wonderful blending of three fundamental components:  orchestra, singers, and actors.  So far, every Metropolitan opera singer that we've watched has been an incredible actor/actress.  Facial expression, movement, and total role submersion.
    Give it a try!  Keep an open mind and see whether it's for you or not.  Just one try and you might find a special something you are otherwise missing!

    Hi-dee hi-dee opera-ho my friends!

    Friday, November 12, 2010

    Eating Out

    Greetings, salutations and general wishes of goodwill to one and all!  What is on Chuckys mind today?  It's day #43 of our newly found vegetarian life.  Today I would like to share my experiences meeting up with friends and dining out.

    What is on the menu?  What choices do I have as  vegetarian?  Do I find myself making sacrifices?  I think that the best way to share my experiences is to simply alphabeticaly list the establishment and describe the choices I found.  

    Bahama Breeze - For those not familiar, Bahama Breeze is a member of the Darden Restaurants chain (Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, The Capital Grill, and Seasons 52).  Bahama Breeze serves Caribbean-inspired food.  Tiffany and I will be going there tonight to meet up with some friends.  My past pre-vegetarian life recalls quite a few choices.  Online I find they have quite a few acceptable menu choices for tonight's dining:  Creole Baked Goat Cheese, Spinach Dip & Island Chips, Roasted Cuban Bread, or Island Tomato & Basil Flatbread.  Mmm... I am getting hungry already!  :)

    Update.  Tiffany and I began with the Warm Spinach Dip & Island Chips to share with the table.  For our entree, she and I shared the Sun-Drenched Portobello & Vegetable Sandwich and a bowl of Cuban Black Bean Soup.  Everything was deliciously prepared.  I highly recommend these selections.
    Carrabas Italian Grill -  This has always been one of Tiffany and my favorite dining spots.  Recently, following a Saturday afternoon Metropolitan Opera Live HD event (Mussorgsky's "Boris Godunov") we visited Carrabas.  We were pleasantly surprised to find that we may continue visiting Carrabas after our vegetarian life change.  We shared wine, small Zucchini Fritte (fried battered zucchini) appetizer, wine, Quattro Formaggi (tomato, basil & cheese) brick-oven pizza, wine, Tag Pic Pac (tomato, garlic & basil) pasta, and more wine.  There are many non-meat choices and we look forward to our next visit.

    Cici's Pizza - Cici's buffet has endless possibilities for Tiffany and I.  We start with salad, a little pasta with some meatless marinara sauce, and perhaps a couple of bread sticks.  Then it's time to attack the pizza buffet.  There are almost always several non-meat selections on the buffet:  cheese pizza, veggie pizza, alfredo pizza, spinach pizza, etc.  And, if the buffet is temporarily out of vegetarian selections all we have to do is to flag someone down behind the pizza bar and submit our request.  Within a few minutes, fresh hot non-meat pizza will be served onto the buffet bar! 

    Drunken Monkey Coffee Bar - Okay, okay.  "Not fair!"  Although a fresh roasted coffee and fresh juice bar, they cater to vegetarian and vegan diners.  But, you're welcome to bring your meat-eating friends with you because they serve non-vegetarian & non-vegan selections as well.  Tiffany and I have sadly only visited once.  We've been wanting to return but they just aren't that convenient to home.  We began with the most delicious soups.  Then I ordered a wrap. It was spinach tortilla stuffed with potato, sauerkraut, meatless chicken, and creamy vegenaise sauce.  Tiffany ordered a BBQ meatless steak sandwich that was served on a ciabbata roll.  Every single bite and morsel was heavenly!  We WILL be returning soon!

    Elephant Bar - EB used to have a much nicer vegetarian menu selection (hummus & world's greatest vegetarian burger).  I don't know what is going on at their corporate office but something has change and changed for the worse.  Tiffany and I recently met her mother and sister at the Elephant Bar and I was actually quite disappointed.  There are pretty much two vegetarian selections, salads and Morningstar burger.  Let me give you a little history lesson folks.  EB used to make the absolute BEST vegetarian burger available.  Then some bright moron at corporate elected to switch to what can best be described as sticky rice colored with red beet.  Absolutely tasteless, disgusting, fell apart with one bite and looked exactly like a Gaines-Burger (I kid you not).  Ha!  That culinary creation did not last very long.  Now?  Simple Morningstar burger on a grilled stale whole wheat bun (includes tomato, lettuce, onion, and pickle).  It was edible but barely so.  Elephant Bar?  No, I cannot in good conscience, recommend them for the vegetarian.  This opinion truly hurts me, my friends.  Elephant Bar used to be a favorite place to dine.

    Firehouse Subs - They have but a single item for us vegetarians.  But, trust me, it's killer!  Go ahead!  Dare to enter a Firehouse Subs and order the Veggie Sub on whole wheat (sauteed mushrooms, bell peppers and onion with lettuce, tomato, mayo, mustard and italian dressing topped with provolone, Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese), hold the mayo please.  But please keep your mouth closed after you chew and swallow each bite.  Else the screams of joy emitting from your taste buds might disturb other patrons.

    Phat Thai Café - Simply outstanding.  Like most Thai restaurants, tofu can be substituted for meat.  I did encounter a dilemma though.  The other night I had a craving for noodle soup but they do not offer a non-meat based soup.  So, I caved in and ordered the Beef Noodle Soup.  Substituted tofu for steak.  The server immediately impressed me, "Sir?  Are you aware that this is a beef-based broth?"  After confirming that I was aware and thanking her for warning me, I was then asked whether I would like my tofu fried or steamed.  Oddly enough, I had never been given a choice.  Nice touch!  Tiffany and I had the fried tofu appetizer and she ordered Phat Se‐Ew Noodle with tofu.

    La Fiesta Mexican Restaurant - Many non-meat selections off of the menu but Tiffany and I are only familiar with their afternoon buffet.  Endless possibilities.  We've been going there regularly for years and never tire of the place.  Best Mexican food to be found with a staff that cannot be beat!  There isn't a steamer tray of grilled vegetables. Instead, we pick them out of the steak fajita, chicken fajita and grilled shrimp trays.  We create our own burritos and tacos using Spanish rice, refried beans, Mexican corn, grilled veggies, pico de gallo, diced onion, and fresh salsa.  There are fried plantains and tortilla chips on the buffet.  Every visit has a different taste as we continue to get creative.

    Subway - Two basic sub sandwich choices:  Veggie Delite and Veggie Patty.  Oddly enough, our local Subway shops offer the Veggie Patty but it's not listed on their web site.  And, of course, they offer any sub made into a salad.  Breakfast?  I recommend the Western Omelet (light English muffin, egg white, cheese, bell pepper, onion and ham), hold the ham.

    Loving Hut - We've only visited once and had a wonderful experience.  A truly delicious vegan café.  Tiffany and I had the Sea Wonder (tempura dish with Chinese mushroom, seaweed and soy protein) appetizer.  We then tried the C8 Combo (rice, summer roll, ocean delight, and vegetables).  Freshly prepared and absolutely delicious.  Each bite was a jubilation of flavor.  I look forward to many, many more visits.

    SEA Thai - You absolutely cannot lose if you visit this place seeking a scrumptious vegetarian meal.  Almost every dish can be ordered with tofu.  Try the Seaweed Salad.  A delicate delicious combination of fresh seaweed, sesame oil, and sprinkle with sesame seed.  Soups?  Almost everyone is meatless-broth based and can be safely ordered.  Make mine "super Thai hot" please!  You can't go wrong with the Phad Thai, Phad See Euw or any other dish that they serve.  Their menu clearly defines what each dish is composed of making it simple and easy to order.

    So, what is the lesson learned?  Wonderful news!  Tiffany and I can continue to dine out and join friends for a meal.

    I don't find myself missing the non-vegetarian selections.  Instead, I find myself regretting that there aren't more choices.  Tiffany and I eat out as much, if not more frequent, than prior to fourty-three days ago.  What I consume may have changed but my lifestyle has not.

    Hi-dee hi-dee bon appetit-ho my friends!