I thought my first weekend of complete veganness would be the toughest part of this “30 day challenge.” I cook every weeknight, so weekends are my time off. We eat a few meals at home, sandwiches or left overs, but we mostly dine out on weekends at least 3 times (we’ve worked our way down from 5+ to save more money). But this weekend was pretty easy and I had some amazing food. I really should have taken pictures, but I didn’t think to.
Friday night we went to California Pizza Kitchen (CPK). They have amazing food, but almost none of it is vegan. Unfortunately, they don’t offer vegan cheese like Mellow Mushroom does and milk and cheese is hiding in a lot of their dishes you wouldn’t think about like tomato-broth based minestrone soup and several of their pastas contain eggs. I’m lucky enough to know a waitress personally at CPK and we ask for her every time we go. So I didn’t feel as anxious about asking for her recommendations (putting her on the spot) and asking questions. I didn’t feel like I was bothering her. She is so awesome, she brought me the chef’s binder from the back that has everything they make in it, ingredient lists, and instructions for preparation and plating. I felt like I had been given the Secret Book of CPK! (This is how I know their soup has cheese and their ravioli and whole wheat penne have eggs). Turns out their whole wheat honey crust is vegan (except for the honey – see my post from day 6) and so is their thin crust. So any of their vegetarian pizzas (and they have several) can be made vegan… if you remove the cheese.
Now I know what you’re thinking. REMOVE THE CHEESE? How can you have pizza with no cheese? It’s not that bad folks! In fact, it was very good! I got the Vegetarian with Japanese Eggplant pizza that has eggplant (duh!), sun-dried tomatoes, broccoli, roasted corn, sliced red onions, mushrooms, and tomato sauce. I ordered extra sauce on the side in case it was bland, but it was really very flavorful! And since I ordered it sans cheese, I took off 300+ calories and 25 grams of fat! I also had the White Corn Guacamole appetizer from their “Small Cravings” menu, which was the perfect combination of sweet corn, creamy avocado, red bell pepper, black beans, serrano peppers, and green onion. That’s one I’m definitely going to have to replicate at home!
Saturday for lunch we went got Do Di Yo’s, which is a family-owned Greek restaurant that offers seasonal dishes. I ordered a salad special that was on the menu for lunch that day. The salad was made of mixed baby greens (cardinal spinach, arugula, oak leaf, and radicchio), grilled artichokes, roasted tomatoes, roasted red peppers, baby onions, and the biggest almonds I’ve ever seen. The dressing, a homemade fig vinaigrette, was the real reason I wanted to order this salad. The salad was supposed to come with lamb and goat cheese. Since I knew taking off those two items would mean I was still paying the same price, I decided to ask if the chef could replace them with something else (I suggested chickpeas or other grilled vegetables). The waiter thought for a moment and then recommended that I get a small side item instead, like tabbouleh or hummus. I said that would be fine. So you see, it doesn’t hurt to ask! Some restaurants are stubborn about it and won’t do substitutions, but I’ve found that most are willing to work with you, especially if you visit often and ask nicely. 🙂
Saturday night we ate at the Purple Onion. Their falafel wraps are so good that I get giddy just thinking about eating one. They also have really good tabbouleh with plenty of bright green parsley and fresh lemon. Their pita bread is warm and soft and is made at a local bakery. The Purple Onion also has grilled veggie kabobs and a sweet, melt-in-your mouth baklava that’s out of this world.
Today I had Moe’s for lunch. I love that I can get a good meal there for $5 and only feel slightly guilty for stuffing myself silly with their homemade chips and salsa verde! I got an Art Vandalay Jr burrito with rice, black beans, lettuce, pico de gallo, and guacamole. They also offer organic, non-genetically modified tofu, but I usually skip the processed soy products these days.
So I made it! It wasn’t hard at all. I didn’t get any weird looks. No one sighed and threw their hands up in the air, rolled their eyes, or said they didn’t have anything to serve me. I’m beginning to think this could easily be a life-time change without feeling that I’ve made some sort of sacrifice.
Later to come this week: a summery tomato/basil/mozzarella pizza with homemade pesto! (Thank you Daiya for vegan cheese!)