Raise Your Sights & New Ways to Love Avocado

July 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

vegan avocado pasta

We’re on the 15th act of the 101 days of blogging challenge. Today’s revolutionary act is “Raise Your Sights: Don’t get sucked in by obsessions with six-pack abs and buns of steel. Don’t play “compare the bodies.” Fulfill your best-self vision.”

I can’t remember where I heard this but I heard someone say that we spend so much time comparing ourselves to others, and wanting their bodies, that we are never content. But the thing is, I may never be able to get killer abs or little waist like someone I see on the cover of a magazine because I have a completely different body than them. The goal should always be to be our best self. I don’t care about six-pack abs or buns of steel. What I care about is being health enough to do what I want to do and make the most of this life. Sure I want to look nice in a little black dress or show off in a bikini but I don’t need to get carried away about my waist size or biceps.

Part of being my best self today included going for a walk tonight with my dog Chloe, and making this amazing avocado pasta from Oh She Glows. I’ve been eyeing this recipe for about a year now, but truth is I really don’t love avocados. I love guacamole loaded with onions and jalapeno scooped perfectly on tortilla chips but a straight up avocado is not my friend. So, I really wasn’t sure this was the recipe for me. But with guac already being eaten with my black bean and quinoa wrap and then again as a little treat this weekend, I decided I might as well put the last avocado in the fridge to use for something other than a tortilla chip. And boy am I glad I did!

This pasta is truly exquisite. There isn’t even the faintest avocado flavor. All you get is this amazingly creamy, garlicky, slightly lemony sauce. The sauce itself was a tad hard to mix into the pasta so next time I’m going to blend a little pasta water into it before tossing to make it a bit easier to spread around. I think I’ve finally found another recipe to put my avocados to use other than guacamole. Paired with whole wheat pasta, this is a healthy, quick, delicious dinner ready in no time.

 

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The Best Eggplant Ever – Giada’s Pasta with Eggplant and Pesto

December 18, 2011 § 5 Comments


I’ve spent 28 years thinking I don’t like eggplant. My mom passed down this disdain for the purple veggie after years of growing up and eating eggplant parmagiana every Friday (it’s a Catholic thing). Just the sight of it is enough to make her lose her appetite. Thus, we never – not once – were served eggplant in my mom’s house.

I ventured out a few times and tried to give eggplant a chance in restaurants. Boy was I disappointed! That mushy flavorless veggie had nothing to offer me. That is until one day I was watching Giada on TV make this eggplant and pasta dish with pesto. She sauteed the eggplant in a generous amount of olive oil – dare I even say perhaps this should be called fried – and mixed with pesto. As I watched her prepare the eggplant and it turned to a caramelized color, I thought how could anything with that decadent golden color be bad? So, I figured I’d give eggplant one more go…

The result? OMG – who knew I LOVE eggplant! Like seriously love, love, love this delicious velvety creamy vegetable. Turns out, I’ve just never had it prepared properly. (Ok, being fare – what isn’t good fried up in olive oil? But still…)

And what’s even better – this recipe takes no time to prepare. This would even meet Rachel Ray’s 30 minute requirement, if that. It’s ridiculously easy and so full of flavor. Now for the real skeptic – I’ve got to make this for my mom and see if she will approve!

The trick is to add a LOT of olive oil. You’re looking for a really good coating and the eggplant just sucks the oil right up. A little salt and pepper and just let it sit and become all golden and yummy.

For the pesto, I omitted the cheese to make it vegan – this dish has so much flavor, you will not miss the parm – I promise! Just blend some garlic, toasted pine nuts, basil, and a touch more of oil together. I actually didn’t even have as much basil as the recipe called for, so I made less pesto but it was perfect. There’s not a big science here. Pesto is easy, you don’t have to get all bent out of shape measuring your ingredients. Just do what smells right 🙂

The original recipe called for trenette but I used casarecce which is a beautiful medium length pasta with an s shape – perfect for soaking up the pesto in the grooves. Once the pasta is done, mix it with the pesto and the eggplant. You might need a tad bit of pasta water to help the pesto coat all the pieces of pasta. Oh my goodness it is so rich and delicious. Enjoy!

For the original recipe, click here.

Update: I’ve made this pasta again and blended half the cooked eggplant with the pesto resulting in a creamy vegan pasta. A must try! 

Stuffed Shells with Butternut Squash and Toasted Walnuts

November 19, 2011 § 2 Comments

I love butternut squash ravioli and had been thinking about it for several weeks. One Sunday night, we were at the grocery store picking up items for the week, and with half a cooked squash in the fridge ready to roll, I thought it was as good a time as any to whip up some ravioli. I had made some sweet potato ravioli last Christmas using the wonton wrappers in the refrigerated section of the grocery story. They were pretty easy despite assembly and thought they’d be perfect for this. However, I forgot wontons have egg, so that was out. But then I thought, why not make stuffed shells? Traditionally stuffed shells are full of cheese and the like but why not stuff with sweet butternut squash?

So that’s just what I did and it really couldn’t have been easier. I took the squash I already had prepared, mashed it up, and heated it on the stove. I added a bit more salt, pepper, and nutmeg as it was heating it up just to make sure it had tons of flavor.

Meanwhile as my shells cooked in boiling salted water, I toasted the walnuts for a few minutes on the stove and set aside. Once the shells are cooked al dente, I added them to a pan with some olive oil, dried sage, pepper, and a little vegan butter to create a sauce. This takes just a few minutes and creates a little “sauce” and balances out the sweetness of the squash.

To assemble, simply remove the shells and place in a serving dish or plate. Open them and fill with the squash mixture, top with some walnuts and voila! This was so easy to make and would even serve as a fantastic appetizer for the holidays. I don’t think I’ll be messing with the hassle of ravioli again after this!

Stuffed Shells with Butternut Squash and Toasted Walnuts
Yields 12 stuffed shells

Ingredients

  • 12 jumbo pasta shells
  • Half a butternut squash, roasted
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp Earth Balance vegan butter
  • 1/4 tsp dried sage
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, toasted
Directions
  1. Boil shells in salted water until al dente.
  2. Mash up cooked squash and re-heat over medium heat. Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg as needed.
  3. Heat oil and vegan butter in pan with sage and pepper. Add cooked shells and toss.
  4. To assemble shells, remove from pan, stuff with squash, and top with walnuts.

My Husband A Vegan (?!?!?) and Vegan Lunch Boxes

August 27, 2011 § 2 Comments

I’ve been thinking a lot about this whole vegan “thing”. I haven’t given up yet, but I’m not convinced this is going to last for the long haul. I sat here on Sunday mindlessly watching TV – off daydreaming of eggs and parmesan cheese and thinking, have I had enough? At that moment Luis looked at me and said “I’m going vegan for 30 days” and gave me a high five.

Ummm….OK??????

Let’s be clear: this is a big deal. My husband is Guatemalan and a serious meat lover. Ropa vieja, carnitas, filet mignon, you name it. I remember a dinner out recently as I approached my 30 day mark, eating some sad and badly prepared veggies as he devoured a steak rooting me on to not to give up. I don’t even like steak but I wanted a bite that night – I was hungry!

So fast forward and I’m approaching two months, having the same questions and here Luis is saying he’s giving it a shot. He was even trying his best to convert his mom tonight – I’m sure she was thinking “Dios mio! What’s happened to my son? Quick call 911 and get him a steak!”

Well, I can’t give up now can I?

The biggest question my husband had in his new vegan quest – “What on earth will I eat for lunch?” He works for a hotel so lunches allow just enough time for a visit to the cafeteria, which will have a few daily options. I asked if he wanted me to make him lunch the first day which he said, no, no, don’t worry. But I knew we were in trouble as the texts started rolling in around 12:30 the next day:

Is mayonnaise vegan? –No

Is rice vegan? –Depends

Is chocolate vegan? –Only dark

There was only one thing to do. I had to create a vegan lunch box. So Monday night after we dined on that delicious summer tomato pasta (If I could have that every day, the beginning of this post would have been different) I set to work in the kitchen and prepared a few containers of flavorful lunches for his first week.

Raw corn and tomato salad – olive oil, balsamic, basil, salt and pepper

Pasta with peas – a little good quality fruity olive oil, basil, salt and pepper (cooked a whole package of pasta when I made the summer tomato pasta so this was a super quick fix).

Greek quinoa salad – red peppers, cucumber, scallions, and oregano vinaigrette

Lentil salad – One of my favs with red onion, cucumber, and lemon vinaigrette

All these can travel easily, don’t require refrigeration immediately, or reheating, making them perfect vegan lunch box options. A side of nuts and seeds, veggies and hummus and he was good to go.

Now, I’m still not saying being vegan is easy. But I’m also not saying it’s necessarily “hard”. It is just about making it convenient – thinking ahead and being prepared. Here’s to yummy lunches that leave you light and fulfilled – vegan or not!

Another easy vegan lunch recipe you may enjoy: raw zucchini pasta with chickpeas and tomatoes.

Learning to Love Tomatoes – Heirloom Tomato Summer Pasta

August 23, 2011 § 6 Comments

I have never been one for tomatoes – you’d never find me snacking on them or making them the star of any meal. In fact, those individuals that could eat a tomato like an apple always perplexed me – why on earth would they do that? Even cooked tomatoes are sometimes too acidic for my liking – but all this changed within the last two months and I’m a new tomato fanatic. Me, tomato lover, can’t get enough of them…If my mother is reading this right now, she’s shocked.

There are two parts to my new-found tomato fanaticism. One: being vegan has definitely changed my tastes. Usually I’d crave an oozing piece of cheese pizza or a bowl of creamy pasta but not anymore. Maybe its summer but I think its more likely due to my changing diet. Eating more fruits and veggies has in turn made me want – well, more fruits and veggies.

The second reason for my new tomato cravings: I’ve finally tasted what a tomato should taste like. I’m not talking about those lifeless mealy barely red things you find at the grocery store. I’m talking about firm, juicy, bursting with fruity goodness, barely needs any seasonings, freshly picked from the garden tomatoes. I was recently treated to some tomatoes of this very nature and have been dying to get my teeth into some tomatoes similar to what I experienced, causing me to order anything that looks remotely close when I’m out and about.

No pizza or pasta for me, I’ll take the fresh tomato salad please! 🙂

Due to my recent tomato cravings I’ve ordered gazpacho at every restaurant I’ve been to that has it on the menu. My favorite was a charred green tomato gazpacho that I enjoyed at Park Grille in Chicago. As I sat and looked over the menu, the waiter greeted me and informed me this gazpacho was vegan if ordered without the crab – I didn’t even tell him I was vegan! Was quite a change from my Seattle trip. Ah, Chicago, how do I love thee. The soup was delicious – refreshing with a hint of smokiness due to grilling the tomatoes and let’s face it, the view didn’t hurt either.

I drug Luis to the farmers market this weekend with one thing in mind: yup, you guessed it, tomatoes. But not just any tomatoes, I really had my heart set on heirloom tomatoes, the more colors the better. While I didn’t find any at the farmers market, I found some standard tomatoes that the gentleman assured me would be sweeter and have more flavor than those in the supermarket. On the way home we stopped in Whole Foods for some necessities and I couldn’t resist the heirloom tomatoes sitting like royalty on stands. I can be a bit cheap at times, but let me tell you, I shelled out about $7 for these beauties. I got a large heirloom with a deep purplish green and red color combo and a small carton of tiny round and pear orange, yellow, and purplish tomatoes. They looked like a rainbow in a carton.

This pasta was a take on a pasta I saw here and have been thinking about for several weeks. I loved the idea of a fresh pasta that required little to no cooking in the summer’s heat.

Given how beautifully fresh these tomatoes were, I didn’t even see the need to marinate them but I began about 30 minutes before Luis got home so they did sit a bit.

All I did was slice, toss with some nice fruity Spanish olive oil I use for special dishes like this, and add a splash of balsamic for a little kick. A little salt and pepper for seasoning, and at the last minute I added one clove of minced garlic. Honestly though, I’m not sure the dish really needed it – you could easily do without it. Sliced basil tops it off and keeps the dish light and earthy.

At first I was worried the whole wheat pasta would be overwhelming for this dish but it was all I had on hand – and it turned out to be really good. I made sure to cook it al dente to provide texture against the soft tomatoes. Boil the pasta and allow to cool before mixing with the tomatoes. This dish is delicious cool and at room temperature – providing juicy freshness on a hot summer day.

Heirloom Tomato Summer Pasta
Serves 2

Ingredients

1 large heirloom tomato
1 carton small heirloom tomatoes
2 – 3 tablespoons fruity, good quality olive oil
a few splashes of balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon sliced fresh basil
1 garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 package of pasta of your choice

Directions

  1. Bring water to a boil for pasta and cook according to package directions.
  2. Slice large tomato into several segments and smaller tomatoes in half.
  3. Toss in large bowl with several tablespoons of olive oil, or enough to generously coat tomatoes.
  4. Add a few splashes of balsamic vinegar, sliced basil, and season with salt and pepper. Toss and set aside.
  5. Once pasta is finished drain well and set aside to cool. Once cooled, serve with tomato mixture over top.

End of Week Two and More New Ingredients – Kale and Purple Sweet Potatoes

July 17, 2011 § 1 Comment

Ingredient discovery continued this week as I ended the second week of my 30 day vegan challenge. (Update: See how I did with my challenge here.) I ordered from a local organic delivery service for the first time in an attempt to save time and get more organic produce. While I appreciated the ease of ordering and having fresh produce awaiting my arrival at my door, I realized I really am a grocery shopper. I enjoy perusing the lanes and looking for the freshest produce, smelling it, feeling it, and thinking about what I’ll be cooking that week based on what’s there. So, I’m not sure I’ll keep this as a weekly service, but it’s pretty nice during weeks I have to travel to have fresh produce waiting for me at home.

One thing I can tell you – I never would have picked up these two items which arrived at my door with this service: kale and purple sweet potatoes. Both of them appeared unattractive (in my opinion) and well, not so yummy. But boy was I wrong. Both turned out to be winners – not only very attractive, dare I say even beautiful, but delicious and satisfying.

If you’re like me and you’ve never eaten kale, it can be a bit intimidating. The leaves are really rough and almost have the texture of crazy thick curly parsley. Just looking at it you can tell its chock full of vitamins and nutrients but it doesn’t look like it will be delicious. Kale is sometimes compared to spinach but there was nothing tender about these leaves. While I had read that you can eat the stems, that was just being too adventurous for me. I was already going for the leaves, so I left the stems out of the party.

I decided to cook the kale with pasta. I figured that was the best way to ease into it as straight on kale might be a bit much for a first try. I had some grape tomatoes on hand as I usually do and I sauteed it with lots of garlic and some crushed red pepper and capers to give it a kick. Luis was skeptical as I cut the leaves free of their stems and I have to admit I was a bit scared to dump it into my beautiful sauce I had cooking, but boy was it good. The resulting pasta was really delicious and the greens absorbed all the strong flavors of the pan, making the bites of pasta with kale the best tasting ones! This pasta was so easy to make and extremely satisfying. We both went back for seconds and there was barely any left for leftovers…always a good sign.

To make the pasta, slice the garlic, onions, and tomatoes. Fully wash the kale and remove the stems, cutting the leaves into strips. While the water boils, saute the onions in olive oil until tender. Then add the tomatoes for a few minutes and then the capers, red pepper flakes, and garlic.

Once the tomatoes are almost fully soft, add the kale. I let it steam on top of the tomato mixture first before folding in the leaves. They’ll fill the full pan but like spinach they will wilt down quickly.

Keep turning them in the tomato mixture until they are fully wilted and a bright emerald green. Seriously is that not the prettiest color combo above?Gorgeous green and bright red.

Once done, toss in the pasta and enjoy!

Just as the kale was pretty intimidating at first glance, the purple sweet potatoes didn’t look so appealing either. Reminder: beauty isn’t on the outside. Goes for people and veggies as it turns out.

Once you peel away those somewhat scary looking skins – behold the most beautiful purple ever. Seriously, this may be the most beautiful vegetable I’ve ever seen, or eaten. Nature tricks us once again as we think it can’t get more beautiful than that – and you cook these babies and they turn lighter, brighter, almost the color of amethyst. I don’t know if I had more fun prepping and cooking these to discover their changing colors or eating them. The taste did not disappoint!

I knew I wanted to make them Friday night for dinner but wasn’t sure what to make. I also had eggplant arrive in my delivery. As you may recall, I’m not a fan of eggplant. In a desperate attempt to turn this around I started googling “delicious recipes for eggplant haters” -while the search returned a number of results, apparently there’s a lot of eggplant haters out there, they all included vegan no no’s like loads of cheese or other dairy products. I went out on a limb and decided to make a vegan vegetable tempura with the eggplant and purple sweet potatoes. Mind you, this was last night, after a long work day, so Luis arrived home to see me cutting the eggplant and scary looking potatoes and wasn’t so excited. I had faith though – after my successful adventures with kale, I thought it would be OK.

I found some vegan tempura batters and settled on one that just called for flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. The resulting tempura were really delicious – and the batter almost had a sweet pancake flavor wrapping the veggies. Success – I liked the eggplant! And those purple sweet potatoes were so yummy. I’ll definitely be experimenting more with this ingredient in the future. As far as the eggplant goes, I’m not convinced I’ll like it any way other than fried. Now I know fried food isn’t really what veganism is all about, but come on, I’ve had enough salads in the past two weeks so I got a little restless. Also, I can assure you the pictures don’t do it any justice.

Garlicky Kale and Tomato Pasta

Ingredients

  • Whole wheat penne pasta – you can use any pasta you like, I wanted to ensure protein in this meatless pasta
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 3 garlic cloves – the garlic cloves I had were huge so this was probably closer to 6 normal sized cloves which produces a strong garlic flavor, just use less if you don’t like a strong garlic flavor
  • One big bunch of kale – I used what was delivered and I think totaled about 10 large leaves.
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Cook pasta in boiled salted water.
  2. Slice onion, garlic and tomatoes. Clean kale and remove stems. Slice leaves thinly into strips.
  3. Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. This is the base of your sauce so you want enough to coat the pasta and vegetables. Add onions and saute several minutes until soft. Add tomatoes, garlic, capers, and red pepper flakes stirring frequently so garlic doesn’t burn. Cook until tomatoes are almost soft.
  4. Layer kale leaves over tomato mixture and let steam for a minute or two. Add salt and pepper to taste. Begin to stir and fold the tomato mixture over the leaves. Cook until all leaves are wilted and cooked through.
  5. Add cooked pasta to the vegetable mix. Stir until the pasta is coated and add extra olive oil if needed.

Vegan Vegetable Tempura

If you try this recipe, I served it with soy sauce which was a bit too strong. It needs a light tempura sauce which I just didn’t have the ingredients on hand to make.

Ingredients

  • Desired vegetables – I used eggplant and purple sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup chilled water
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil plus more for frying

Directions

  1. Mix flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder together. Slowly add oil and water and mix until smooth. Chill for 15 minutes.
  2. Cut vegetables into uniform slices.
  3. Heat oil in large fry pan over medium – high heat. Dip vegetables into batter one by one and then add to oil, frying several at a time.

 

Explorations in Flavor and Cooking – End of Week One

July 10, 2011 § 3 Comments

Last night at midnight I’d officially made it through the first week of my 30 day vegan challenge. As I wrote in my last post (on day 4!) it’s been challenging to say the least. I’m starting to get the hang of it, filling up on lots of fresh veggies and fruit, but man is it tough. Not to mention that I’ve just been hungry a lot! There were several times this week that I really thought – I’m going to have to quit. Luckily, or unluckily depending on how you look at it, I documented it here so I felt quitting would be, well losing I guess. I’ve never been known to be one to hold back on indulgences – I enjoy my desserts, pasta, wine, all in all just good food. This has kind of become a self control challenge – let’s see what I can do. And, while I’m testing my self control, I’m trying new flavors – good and bad.

It’s so easy to get stuck in a routine of making the same thing over and over – or even just ordering the same things when you go out. We all have our go to recipes that provide us quick comfort on week night ensuring a good meal. In the age of multi-tasking, it can be hard to find the time to try something new. My go-to recipes all include meat, seafood, or dairy, so I’ve been starting fresh over the past 7 days. My adventures in cooking this week: quinoa and eggplant.

I’ve seen lots of recipes with quinoa that look great but had never made it before. I actually was really overzealous and bought a package at Costco I think two years ago thinking I’d get healthy and it just sat in the pantry until it expired. I don’t know how to describe quinoa – it’s a grain that is like a tiny little pearl. Once cooked its quite light and fluffy. It’s known for it’s “delicious” nutty taste. I for one, didn’t think it was so delicious. To me it just tasted like health food – and not good health food. I had made a veggie stir fry and served it over the plain quinoa. I’d cooked the veggies with coconut oil which is healthier than olive oil, but man was it plain. It needed a spicy sauce or something. The picture above looks much more appetizing than it was. That was the night I almost quit – I could barely take it.

But the next day I decided to try it out again as I had some cooked quinoa leftover and I made what turned out to be a very good Greek quinoa salad. The key, I learned, was the dressing. The red wine vinegar was acidic enough to counter balance the quinoa flavor – providing a nice salad with some added protein and texture.

To make the salad, rinse and cook the quinoa according to the package instructions. Add diced and seeded cucumbers, scallions or red onion, red pepper, and black or kalamata olives. I didn’t have tomatoes on hand but they’d certainly be a great addition. The dressing is two parts olive oil and one part red wine vinegar with a generous portion of dried oregano. The result – a quinoa salad I can enjoy and feel satisfied from!

The cooking adventures continued Friday night with a homemade marinara sauce made of tomato, roasted eggplant, peppers, and garlic. I’ve never made eggplant. Clarification: I’ve never purchased or ordered eggplant. There is nothing about eggplant that appeals to me – except it’s beautiful purple skin, which I do have to admit, is quite special. This eggplant avoidance comes directly from my mom. She hates the thing after many years of eggplant parmesan on Friday nights when Catholics still observed meatless Fridays. So needless to say, we never had eggplant in our house.

I recently saw Rachel Ray make this marinara and figured anything with roasted peppers and garlic has to be good right?  The kitchen smelled amazing with the vegetables and garlic roasting away. Even my husband couldn’t wait for his meatless dinner to be ready. As I pulled each item from the oven, the fragrance intensified and my stomach churned. This was going to be gooooood! I had full confidence in Rachel’s testament that this was in fact the best marinara ever. Or not…

I plated that gorgeous pasta, pouring extra sauce full of all those veggies over the top and sat proudly to eat it. I took a bite and — nada. It tasted, well, I don’t quite know how to describe but kind of just like some plain ‘ol marinara from a nondescript jar. No depth. No complexity of flavors. This sauce had a whole head of roasted garlic in it I may add – and still nothing? Rachel was a bit too sure of her testament – or what it may have been is that I still just don’t like eggplant. Last night as I recounted the story to our friends and they had ordered babaganoush. To confirm this like or dislike of eggplant I tried it and yup – no me gusta. So perhaps the eggplant flavor killed it for me.

So, I know I haven’t made a sale of this by any stretch – but if you like eggplant, you might like this recipe. I did have the leftovers today for lunch and doctored it up a bit and it was much better. I sautéed some garlic and crushed red pepper in oil and then mixed in the pasta – the extra heat and spice gave it the kick it needed. If you do try it, I’d suggest just using canned roasted red peppers. I don’t have a gas grille and trying to roast them under the broiler was a pain. I think I’ll try it again but just leave out the eggplant and see how that changes it.

So, we’ve had some successes and failures this week in the kitchen. In the end though I got to end my week on a high note. We went to Ceviche with friends before a fabulous concert. I’d recommended Ceviche as it’s right across from the arena and is one of our favorite restaurants. But as my husband pointed out – “what on earth are you going to eat?” As he says, before I was picky, now I’m just plain difficult.

So what did I eat at a restaurant full of meaty and seafood delights? I ordered my usual aceitunas y pimintos – marinated olives and peppers to start as I mused over the menu. As I’ve learned in just a few weeks, there’s only a handful of vegan options at any restaurant. I decided upon the gazpacho, arroz con pimientos, and champinones al ajillo which I confirmed all complied with a vegan diet. The gazpacho arrived and the beautiful pink color had to mean one thing – cream. There was no way that soup didn’t have dairy. I confirmed with the waiter and yes, they add cream. Interesting for a gazpacho as I’ve never had it that way. We switched the creamy gazpacho for a house salad, which I finished without a second thought. Whatever is in their vinaigrette is amazing. The arroz con pimientos – saffron rice with peppers – was so flavorful I’m not entirely convinced it was vegan. I’m guessing it had to have seafood or chicken stock in it. I confess to eating every last grain and everyone at the table reassured me saying they were pretty sure it was vegan friendly – I think they may have just been trying to be nice.

Now for the champinones al ajillo – these are sautéed mushrooms in garlic oil and finished with a sherry flambé. If you’re following along, you know I don’t like mushrooms. At all actually. So the fact that I’ve now eaten mushrooms twice in one week is pretty big. There was something spicy in it that I couldn’t figure out what it was, but must have been some red pepper flakes infused in the oil. The combination of sweet sherry and spicy, garlicky oil was amazing. I think I’m starting to like mushrooms – that’s good.

For me, this meal was success. I was worried about eating there and being tempted, wanting everything else on the table than what sat before me but I wasn’t. I thoroughly enjoyed my meal and the best part was I didn’t leave with that overstuffed feeling I usually have when I eat there. Instead, I felt content and happy.

I wonder what this week will have in store for me! On to week two…

Update: Check out how I did with my 30-day vegan challenge and read my recap here.

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