Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Eve Soup and 7 Layer Dip

I'm going over to a friend's house tonight to celebrate my New Year's Eve with the girls.  We're going to have appetizers and cocktails and pizza.  I decided that I would take 7 Layer Dip.  The recipe on Namely Marly looks sinful!  I'm going to make a couple of changes to the recipe, but not many.

I'll be mixing vegetarian refried beans with salsa as the base and adding freshly cooked black beans (from dry) as another layer.  I don't have regular tomatoes, so I'll be chopping grape tomatoes to add as the top garnish.  Also, instead of soy crumbles as a layer, I'll be making the meat in the Fool Your Friends Tacos recipe from Vegan Comfort Foods as one of the layers.  (It's the third recipe down.)  I've made it before and it is very good and could, literally, fool your friends.
Now, I'm making Southwestern Black Bean and Corn Chowder from Vegan on the Cheap.  This is a repeat recipe for me, but a darn tasty one.  I love this soup and it's very easy to pull together.  I didn't have any canned or frozen black beans, so I had to make some from dry in my pressure cooker.  But, the extra time it takes to make the black beans from dry is well worth it.  I have some leftover brown rice, so I think I'll put a 1/2 cup in my bowl before ladling in the soup.
It seems to be a bean cooking kind of day.  I just spread the black beans out on a large cookie sheet and put them in the freezer to freeze enough for me to put them in a baggie so I can pull some out at will.  Then, I cleaned out my pressure cooker and loaded it with 3 cups of dry chickpeas.  I have been out of cooked chickpeas for a month and it's been killing me.  Since I have cooked them from dry, I prefer them this way and haven't been buying canned beans.  They are extremely easy to make and once frozen, are extremely easy to use.  Plus, my dogs absolutely LOVE cooked chickpeas and I toss them to them as treats.  They even like them frozen.

I'll be prepared for the coming work week after taking some time to cook this weekend.  I hope you all have a fantastic and safe New Year's Eve and that 2011 is filled with blessings.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tokay Mustard Sauce with Vegan Filet Mignon

I follow a wonderful blog called The Iowa Housewife.  It's not a vegan blog.  It's a "life" blog.  Sue and her sister Myrna post delicious recipes.  Sue cooks and Myrna bakes. (OK, that's simplifying it, but they are very talented!)  And although blog isn't vegan, I have gotten wonderful recipes from this blog.  It's probably my favorite blog.  It's one of those blogs that I can get lost in for an hour and be delighted with the cooking tips, recipes, and stories that are posted.

Tonight was one of those nights that I got lost on Sue's blog and ran across a recipe for Cognac Mustard Sauce that I wanted to modify for my Vegan Filet Mignon.  And, I did!  It doesn't look as elegant as Sue's sauce, which is a deep, rich brown, but it was extremely tasty.  Since I made 6 Vegan Filet Mignon on Christmas Day and I only ate 1, I thought I should find tasty recipes to use the rest in.  (I froze 4 portions.)
The sauce is pretty easy to pull together.  Melt the Earth Balance in a measuring cup in the microwave and then combine all of the other ingredients.  I used a Tokay port wine, since I didn't have any cognac.  Tokay has a raisin and tapioca taste to me, so I thought it would work.  I sliced the Vegan Filet Mignon, placed it in a skillet, and poured the Tokay Mustard Sauce over the seitan and cooked it on medium for about 5 minutes.
While I made the sauce and warmed it with the seitan, I had thrown 3 scoops of an organic brown rice blend (bulk section of Whole Foods) in my rice cooker.  I added a No-Beef Bouillon cube to the water along with 1 teaspoon of Earth Balance, so the rice wouldn't foam up.
When the rice flipped to "warm," I was ready to dish up my plate and eat.  I had sliced Vegan Filet Mignon with Tokay Mustard Sauce and brown rice.  I posted my modified recipe of Sue's Cognac Mustard Sauce below.

Tokay Mustard Sauce

4 teaspoons Earth Balance
2 tablespoons SO Delicious Coconut Milk Creamer
2 tablespoons Tokay (port dessert wine)
2 teaspoons coarse ground Dijon mustard
4 teaspoons vegan Worcestershire sauce
Vegan Filet Mignon, thinly sliced

Melt the Earth Balance in the microwave and then add the remaining ingredients.  Whisk together (will look a little grainy).  Slice the seitan and put it in a skillet.  Pour sauce over the seitan and heat through, about 5 minutes or so.  

Thanks to Iowa Sue for a wonderful recipe!!!  :)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Vegan Filet Mignon and other dishes

It's Christmas Day.  It's quiet at my house.  My Mom is here taking a snooze on the couch while Miracle on 34th Street is on the TV.  My sons are with their father at his sister's house for an early Christmas dinner.  They were supposed to eat at 2 PM, and then my youngest son planned on coming home for more food when my dinner is done around 6 PM.  However, he still hadn't eaten at 3:30 PM, so I think his plan is off schedule. 
I knew the Vegan Filet Mignon would take 2½ to 3 hours to make, so I started making them around 3 PM.  Because Tracy said (in her blog entry) that the seitan might stick at first, I put them on a rack.  However, the seitan was expanding to the point that I thought it would get stuck under the handles on the rack, so after about 20 minutes, I removed it.  The rack left little ridges in the "steaks" that kind of resemble grill marks.
While the seitan is simmering, I put some potatoes in a pan to boil for the Crash Hot Potatoes.  They are a two-stage side dish that takes extra time to cook.  I will say that they are well worth the extra effort.  Although they don't require anything at all, once prepared, I am making some Slow-Cooked Mushroom Gravy as I think they will be scrumptious with it and I bought a lot of mushrooms!
It took a VERY long time to get everything prepared.  The gravy took much longer than I expected.  But, as was the case the first time I cooked it, it was well worth it.  Funny thing, my younger son asked me if I had beef patties in the pan.  I told him no.  Then my older son looked at the Vegan Filet Mignon and told me it looked like beef. It actually does look like beef.  I think the marks from the rack make it look even more so like meat versus seitan.  
It was a very tasty dinner.  I still have 5 Vegan Filet Mignon pieces that I'll be freezing for other meals.  I already stuck the gravy in the freezer.  The Crash Hot Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts turned out perfectly.  It was just a nice Christmas meal followed by a glass of Tokay, which is a sweet dessert wine with flavors of tapioca and raisins.  Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Roasted Curried Cauliflower and Potatoes with Lemon and Cumin

I'm off for the Christmas holiday.  My boss closed our office at Noon today and the office is closed on both Thursday and Friday.  I was looking at recipes this morning and found a scrumptious looking recipe for Curried Cauliflower Sweet Potato Soup and thought it would be the perfect recipe to make this afternoon.  Then at the bottom of that blog entry, I saw a link for Roasted Curried Cauliflower with Lemon and Cumin and that was it.  I am a "roasted veggie ho" lately, so that had to be the recipe for this afternoon's cooking.  Oh, I will make the soup because it looks absolutely delicious, but I have been having a craving for roasted veggies and that's all there is to that.
I got a bit carried away when making this.  First, I pulled out my cauliflower.  Then, I grabbed 3 baking potatoes, and then I grabbed a red garnet yam.  I didn't double the olive oil mixture, but I did increase it to 4 tablespoons of olive oil and 4 teaspoons of lemon juice, and then I just increased the spices by a tad, too.  I threw it into a 400ºF oven for 30 minutes.  I ended up cooking it 20 minutes longer (50 minutes total) as the yams weren't quite done at 30 minutes.  I checked it at 30 minutes, 40 minutes, and then took it out at 50 minutes.
And no, I did not take a picture as soon as I took them out of the oven BECAUSE these veggies were smelling so DAMN good that I had to have a bowl of them without delay.  I thought briefly (VERY briefly) about using some to make a roasted veggie creamy soup.  But then I thought ... nah!  They taste too good and I've been craving them too long to make them into soup.  I'll make the next batch into soup. :)

Christmas Menu

I've been thinking about my Christmas menu, well, ever since Thanksgiving.  :::chuckle:::  I had such success with that Seitan Turkey and Stuffing that it made me want to make another main dish from scratch.  The same website, A Veg*n for Dinner has won me over for my Christmas meal.  I'll be making Vegan Filet Mignon for Christmas dinner, for me, of course. 

It took me a while to find some No-Beef Bouillon.  I finally found it at a Whole Foods store that was only about 25 minutes from my job.  I stocked up on it.  I have plenty of mushroom broth.  I stocked up on that, too.  I'll be using mushroom broth to simmer the filet mignon so it has plenty of flavor when I use it as a base for the Slow Cooked Mushroom Gravy (and no, I still have not made that Chicken Fried Tofu Steak, but I will).  It should be a very tasty meal. 

So, here's the full menu for me.

Crunchy Sweet Brussels Sprouts Salad (not really a salad, it's a hot veggie dish)
Corn (just boiled with a little Earth Balance for my boys)
Homemade rolls (using my bread machine)

I will have to make another main dish for my mother and sons as they are not vegetarian or vegan.  It'll be another mixed holiday meal, but most of the dishes are vegan and extremely tasty.  I have found so many wonderful recipes since I began this style of eating.  And, I'm loving it! :)

Monday, December 13, 2010

French Toast Vegan Waffles

Sunday is always family breakfast time.  About 95% of the time, I cook breakfast.  Occasionally, I order breakfast from a waffle house for the boys, but normally I cook.  This Sunday, I picked out what I would make versus one of the boys choosing.  I decided on waffles.  I started with my favorite basic waffle recipe, Naked Vegan Waffles.  But, I wanted a different flavor for them, so I decided to add a couple of ingredients from a non-vegan recipe.  Also, I always use unsweetened almond milk.  Somehow I picked up unsweetened vanilla flavor almond milk last time I bought it, but it didn't affect the flavor of the waffles at all.     
I bought a scale not too long ago and I'm trying to get used to using versus measuring everything out, so I thought I'd just dump the flour in the bowl.  I looked at the flour and saw 1/4 cup weighed 30 grams.  OK, so far, so good.  I was going to use mostly all-purpose flour, but I knew I didn't have enough so I planned on using whole wheat, too.  I needed 2½ cups of flour.  So, 30 grams x 4 = 120 grams per cup of flour.  That meant 2½ cups of flour weighs 300 grams, right?  Of course.  So, when I was doing the mental math, instead of 30 x 4, I calculated 40 x 4 and came up with 160 grams per cup or 400 grams total.  By the time I realized that was wrong, I had 400 grams of white and wheat flours in my bowl.  If I tried to scoop some out, it would be a mixture of the two.  OOPS!  Well, I just adjusted all of the other ingredients by multiplying them by 1.33 to get the proper amount.  And YES, I did use a calculator for that.  Sheesh!
Once I had the basic ingredients in the bowl, I added 1 tablespoon of cinnamon and 1 tablespoon of vanilla.  The batter was a light tan color.  I used my double-sided Belgium waffle maker to cook these up and let me tell you, they came out perfectly.  I sprayed the waffle iron before putting in the batter each time and I had absolutely no sticking.
Since I had inadvertently increased the recipe, I had a couple of waffles left over to freeze for later enjoyment.  These are waffles that my sons really like.  I highly recommend them.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Southwestern Black Bean and Corn Chowder

It's rainy in Chicago today.  The temperature is hovering in the mid to upper 30's and it's been raining for a few hours now.  Late tonight, the rain is supposed to turn to freezing rain and then to snow with a 2" to 4" dusting.  :::smile:::   Today is one of three days with temperatures in the 30's sandwiched in between temperatures in the teens and 20's to Monday when our high is supposed to be 9ºF.  That makes it officially soup, stew, and chili season.  
Today, I finally made a recipe out of Vegan on the Cheap.  I bought the book a few weeks ago, but put it aside in the furor of making Thanksgiving foods.  I sat down to review the recipes and make a list of what I wanted to make.  Southwestern Black Bean and Corn Chowder, on page 68, topped my list.  Since I had all of the ingredients in the house, I decided to make it.
The chowder has onion, garlic, corn, black beans, chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, green chilies, fire roasted tomatoes, and vegetable broth in it.  It was easy to assemble and simmers for about 35 to 40 minutes.  I didn't have fire roasted tomatoes, so I used a can of diced tomatoes with green chilies and then added a can of fire-roasted green chilies.  Mine has a little heat, but not too much.  I really enjoyed it.
After dishing up a bowl, I added a handful of crushed tortilla chips, a tablespoon of Tofutti Sour Cream, and a splash of taco sauce.  It was quite delicious.  The recipe suggests adding chopped avocado.  I was being lazy and didn't want to peel and chop and avocado, but I will do that for the leftovers as I think it would be absolutely delicious with that addition.
I strongly recommend this chowder.  In fact, I recommend the cookbook as it has quite a few recipes in it that I will be making.  The great thing is that the recipes use everyday pantry items.  I could have made many of them today without having to go to the grocery store.  Try the chowder!  I think you'll like it. :)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garnet Yams and Stir Fry with Noodles

I actually have been cooking since Thanksgiving.  :::smile:::  Not much, mind you, but I've been cooking.  I've been making easy food, like brown and wild rice with steamed veggies.  I made Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garnet Yams tonight.  I had them with a All-American Incrediburger that I had made before and frozen. OK, I'll admit it. I ate many of the roasted veggies before I remembered to snap a picture.    
Never did I think that the veggie I hated as a kid would become my favorite veggie du jour!  These were incredibly easy to make.  I tossed the veggies in a little olive oil, put them in the pan, and then sprinkled them with salt and pepper.  I roasted them at 400º for about 40 minutes or so.  VOILA!  A perfect veggie dish.  
The other dish that I made last Thursday was a simple stir-fry with noodles.  Actually, I used whole wheat linguine for the noodles.  I had purchased an oriental stir-fry veggie blend from Trader Joes that I had to use up.  I sauteed the veggies with 2 minced garlic cloves in 2 tablespoons of canola oil.  Then, I added 3 tablespoons of hoisin sauce and 2 tablespoons of low sodium soy sauce.
Once the veggies were done (still tender crisp), I added the linguine and tossed it well.  It was OK, but I need more spice and flavor so I'll continue to work on that and develop that dish.  On a side note, I read on someone's blog about a great hot sauce.  The blog said the sauce was not too hot and was great on all Thai or oriental dishes. The hot sauce is Sriracha Sauce.  I'm sure many of you are familiar with it.   
So, when I was eating the rest of my stir-fry noodles, I thought I'd add some of this sauce to the dish to spice them up a bit.  Do you think I had the presence of mind to try a little to see how hot I thought it was?  HECK NO!  I just applied it very liberally (thinking it's not that hot) and stirred it into the noodles.  OK, that first bite hit my taste buds and BAM!  My tongue was on F-I-R-E!!!!!  My lips were burning.  I love hot foods, but this sauce is stinging hot and while I will use it going forward, it will be with a MUCH lighter touch.  :::chuckle:::  So, if you read a blog and the person says the sauce is not that hot, make sure you test it on your taste buds before just applying it willy nilly like I did.  :)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010 - A Mix of Old and New Traditions

Thanksgiving was a nice day.  We had a blend of traditional SAD Thanksgiving food and vegan Thanksgiving food at the table.  It was filled with family and lots of laughter.  Here are a few pictures of the table.
My Seitan Turkey with Stuffing and the excess vegan stuffing are above.  I also provided gravy and Pecan Pie Muffins to the feast.
It was a good dinner made better by sharing with family.  I hope you had a blessed Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pecan Pie Muffins and Slow Cooked Mushroom Gravy

YES! I am drinking Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc.  Yes, I had had to open the bottle of wine to add 1/2 cup to the Slow Cooked Mushroom Gravy.  This gravy ROCKS!  It is excellent!  I'm telling you, I'm going to have to try the entire recipe, including the Chicken Fried Tofu Steaks.  Man, this is some good gravy. 
Yes, my pan is a mess and you should see the front of my shirt.  I used the immersion blender and guess what?  The gravy was not deep enough so the gravy went FLYING everywhere!  I finally got smart and just pulled all of the mushrooms out of the pan into a deep blending container (that actually came with the immersion blender) and blended them in the container and then returned them to the pan.  The gravy is not 100% smooth, it still has some texture from the mushrooms, but just enough.  This gravy will be perfect on my Seitan Turkey with Stuffing roast (which I sampled and is very good).
I happen to love mushrooms and these mushrooms looked perfectly sauteed before I add the wine to them.  I generally don't like a wine flavor in my food, but surprisingly, I do not taste "wine" in the gravy, just savory goodness.

I also made the Vegan Pecan Pie Muffins and they turned out nice.  I didn't have quite a cup of pecans, probably 3/4 of a cup, so I added about 1/4 cup of shaved chocolate and 1 teaspoon of vanilla.  Mine look MUCH darker than the original recipe, and that must be due to the chocolate.  They are very sweet, but very good and they absolutely do taste like pecan pie.  :)

I still need to clean up the pans from the gravy (and all of the splatters), so I better go do that before I drink any more wine.  I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with the love and laughter of good friends and family! :)

Seitan Turkey with Imagination Stuffing

So, it's 4:36 PM on Wednesday afternoon.  I have been cooking since 2 PM and I still have more to do.  I decided for my very first vegan Thanksgiving that I would make a Seitan Turkey rolled with stuffing.  I got the recipe for the Seitan Turkey stuffed with Stuffing here.  I've never made a seitan turkey, but I have made seitan burgers, which were very good, so I thought, what the heck.
I haven't made stuffing from scratch before, so I researched recipes to get a good idea of what I wanted in my stuffing.  For inspiration, I used the recipe for Hearty Stuffing and a recipe called Kitchen Sink Uffing from a Yahoo! Group. The Kitchen Sink Uffing game me permission to put whatever I wanted in the stuffing, so I did.
I diced a yellow onion, 4 stalks of celery, and 8 oz. of baby portabella mushrooms and sauteed them in a little olive oil until the onion and celery were translucent and the mushrooms had released their liquid and were soft.  
I added one diced gala apple, maybe 1/4 cup of chopped walnuts, and 1/4 cup of  pomegranate flavored craisins.  (Yes, I am still trying to use those up.)  
I added 1 bag of seasoned bread cubes (they were vegan), 1/4 teaspoon of sage and poultry seasoning, 1 tablespoon of parsley, and 1 teaspoon of black pepper.  Then, I stirred it up and let it sit while I made the seitan.
After I made the seitan turkey and it had sat for an hour, I added about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups of no salt added vegetable stock to the stuffing.  (Yes, I now realize that I could have made the seitan turkey and while it sat for an hour, I could have made the stuffing, but I didn't do it that way.  So I used the hour wait time to eat a salad. :)
 I rolled out the seitan to about 1/2" thickness and spread the stuffing on it leaving a good margin all around the center so I could close the roast.  

It actually looked pretty good before I wrapped it up in the cheesecloth and tied it.  This is my first experience using cheesecloth.  It kind of looks like a caterpillar.  :::smile:::
This roast was a PERFECT fit for my cast iron oval dutch oven.  I put the roast in it, and then poured the broth over it.  Instead of using water in the broth, I used the rest of the no-salt vegetable broth as the base and then added the spices to it.  I'm hoping it will make the roast that much tastier. After the roast has cooked for 3 hours, I'll be using the seitan broth with mushroom broth to make the gravy. 

So, where's the finished product, you ask???  It's in the oven cooking.  It takes 3 hours to bake at 250ºF.  I threw the dish of the remaining stuffing in the oven too.  I thought I'd let it bake at 250º for an hour along with the roast.  It won't be done then, but I can bake it for another 20 or so minutes tomorrow just before dinner and it should be perfect.  I'll also be baking the seitan roast for about 20 or so minutes just before dinner to give it a firmer crust.  I'll post the finished products tomorrow.

NOW, I still have more to do.  I still need to make Vegan Pecan Pie Muffins and Slow-Cooked Mushroom Gravy to complete my portion of the meal tomorrow.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Crunchy Sweet Brussels Sprout Salad

First, let me start out by saying I have HATED Brussels sprouts since I was a young kid.  My mom used to get the frozen kind and boil them and put butter on them and make me sit at the table until I ate them.  They were awful to me and I haven't had a Brussels sprout in 30 years.  So, when I started eating vegetarian and now vegan, I couldn't believe how many people raved about this vegetable.  Tonight is also the first time I have ever prepared fresh Brussel sprouts or any Brussels sprouts for that matter.

I was watching the Food Network today and actually saw two different recipes.  One was for Roasted Brussels Sprouts by Ina Garten, which I did not make tonight but definitely will another night.  The other was for Crunchy Sweet Brussels Sprout Salad by Sunny Anderson.  This is an excellent dish.
I shredded the Brussels sprouts, sprinkled them with nutmeg, sea salt, and pepper, and then sauteed them in olive oil for about 5 minutes.  That was longer than the recipe stated, but the Brussels sprouts still have a crunch to some slices, so they aren't overcooked.  I turned off the burner and then added half cup of chopped walnuts and half cup of pomegranate flavored craisins.  Yes, they are supposed to be plain dried cranberries, but the pomegranate flavor was open as I've been using them in my salads, so I used them.   I also have some cherry flavored craisins and I think it would be good with those, too.
The end result was a wonderfully seasoned and delicious vegetable dish.  This made a full pan of Brussels sprouts.  I took the picture after I had put a generous serving in a dish to photo and then eat.  (And I did!)  I've discovered that I really enjoy eating Brussels sprouts and I will be making this dish and other Brussels sprouts dishes in the future. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Roasted Cauliflower and Sweet Potato Soup

I went out to dinner at a Thai restaurant with some friends last night.  It was a BYOB restaurant, so we all brought wine.  :::smile:::  While we were there, Jeannie told us about a Roasted Cauliflower Soup she had been making.  The recipe called for chicken broth and half and half, so I thought I'd veganize it.  I ended up making a completely different soup that has a slightly sweet taste while still retaining a savory flavor. 
I roasted cauliflower, sweet potatoes, sweet onions, and garlic in the oven for about 30 minutes.  I sprinkled the veggies with smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and kosher salt and tossed the veggies with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil before popping it into the oven.  I didn't measure the spices and just sprinkled them on the cut veggies in the pan.  I'm guessing I used 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of each spice.  I could have eaten the entire pan of roasted veggies when they were done.  They were very tasty.
I decided to use unsweetened almond milk for the half and half.  Considering that it only has 40 calories per cup, it's a very good choice.  I also used Imagine No-Chicken Broth for the chicken broth.  I think both were good choices.
I added a cubed baked potato, thyme, the No-Chicken broth, and some water.  I simmered this covered for about 20 minutes or so.  When done, I added a cup of the almond milk.  Next, I used an immersion blender to puree the vegetables.  I didn't leave many chunks, but next time, I will.  Although I like the smooth version, I like to have a little something in the soup.
I will definitely make this again and play around with the spice some more.  It's a hearty soup made for chilly fall and winter days.  Here's the recipe for this version.

Roasted Cauliflower and Sweet Potato Soup

1 head of cauliflower, cut into flowerettes
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 large sweet yellow onion, sliced
3 to 4 cloves of garlic, cut in half
2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 to 1 teaspoon smoked paprika 
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
32 oz. of No-Chicken Broth or Vegetable Broth
1 cup water
1 baked potato, cubed
1 teaspoon fresh thyme (I used 1/2 teaspoon dried)
1 cup almond milk (or milk of your choice - can also use soy creamer)

Preheat oven to 400º F.  Place cauliflower, sweet potatoes, onion, and garlic into a roasting pan.  Sprinkle with smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and salt.  Roast for 15 minutes; remove pan and stir vegetables; return to oven for another 15 minutes.  (30 minutes total roasting time)

Place roasted veggies in large dutch oven (I used a 5 qt. pan).  Add cubed baked potato, broth, water, and thyme.  Cover and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.  Use immersion blender to puree veggies (can use blender also).  Stir in milk.  Enjoy!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Let There Be Vegan Cake!

My birthday is coming up.  It's not yet ... it's not until a week from tomorrow.  It falls on the Saturday after Thanksgiving this year.  That meant my closest friend wanted to do something this week for me since I won't see her until November 29.  So, yesterday, she and the claims processors who report to her planned a surprise luncheon for me.  And yes, it was really a surprise.  :::smile:::
The fun thing about the luncheon is that the area over there knows I have adopted a vegan diet.  So, it was a real challenge for them to come up with something they thought I would eat.  They finally settled on a baked potato lunch.  This really touched me because not one of them is even a vegetarian much less a vegan and they seemed to be both fascinated and repulsed at the same time.  :::crackin' up:::

The group provided chili without beans (only meat), dairy cheese, dairy sour cream, and ICBINB for the omnivores.  For me (and truly it was ONLY for me because none of them touched it), they had Smart Balance Light (it's vegan) and Tofutti Sour Cream.  Then there were some cross over items, like chunky salsa in mild and medium flavors and chives.  I had a GREAT potato that hit the spot.  The picture above is an actual potato from the bake.  They were huge!
For dessert, they bought me a vegan chocolate cake.  You'll have to excuse my poor picture as it dawned on me only tonight that I should take a picture.  It is very good.  When the group gave me the cake (with a lit candle on top), they all waited for me to take a piece of it and then they all watched me take a bite to see ... what?!?!? ... I don't know.  A couple came up and took a very small piece of cake and the brave ones who did were questioned by the others if it was good, what it tasted like, etc.  I explained that vegan only meant it didn't have dairy or eggs in it and it was just a regular cake, but because it's unfamiliar, they weren't convinced.  I did bring it home and my son had a piece.  It's very chocolaty!  

So, I was touched that a group of people at work went way outside of their SAD food comfort zone to try and create a really nice vegan luncheon as a surprise for my birthday.  It made me smile.  And for no particular reason other than I want to share my absolutely beautiful dog's face and show you that dogs can and do express joy. Here is my Jordan, the Rottie/German Shepherd mix that I adopted from the shelter last year in July.  She is a pure joy and I'm sure she was posing and looking so happy because she wanted cake.  Normally, she hates having her picture taken.  Enjoy!