A Traveling Vegan Must Be Prepared!

Here we are, back to the cold winter reality of New England. I loved Mexico. We had a beautiful vacation and soaked up the gorgeous sunshiny weather. This was the perfect time of year to visit Mexico because it never felt too hot or stifling, even on the one day it rained, it only rained off and on and one could still enjoy outside activities throughout the day.

The biggest and most important lesson I learned, first hand, is this: you must be prepared!

During the travel to and from your destination, you must pack simple, light, small snacks to get you through those times. Airport food and convenience store foods are very expensive and very often are not vegan friendly. You will be reading labels until your eyeballs fall out and then you will feel the money draining out of your pockets… better to be prepared.

Know what food will be available at your destination. Read menus, and visit the restaurants, look, and ask questions. A lot of times things will be obvious, such as fruit platters or salad bars; most of the time those selections will be vegan, unless they use a cream sauce or dressings. Also obvious will be platters of meats and meat based stews or meat and egg based breakfasts.You will know, those are not vegan. By the way, pancakes will almost always have eggs and milk in them, the best breakfast, I found to be for me was fruits, and oatmeal. But you may have to ask for the oatmeal to be prepared with water, because if you are going to a breakfast buffet most likely the oatmeal will be prepared with milk and butter.
Also not so obvious are veggies, rice and pasta dishes. A perfectly vegan-looking rice and veggie dish may have meat broth or butter or salt pork in it as the beginning preparation. The pasta sauces usually have meat, meat stock or cheeses. The veggies may be grilled in the meat drippings to give them more flavor. Best to stay with veggies that looked steamed and/or have no sauce.

My easiest finds to make things vegan for me, was veggie pizza, pasta, fruits and salad bars. The pizza was made vegan by asking for the veggies of my choice and no cheese on the pizza.
At another meal, I would ask for plain pasta, which I would then add to it veggies from the salad bar and other condiments I would find, which were vegan, such as an olive relish or stewed tomatoes. So each time I had pasta, it would be different depending on what I chose to put on it. Very liveable, very satisfying and easy on the stomach.

And so it depends on your dietary goals and how closely you want to adhere to your own guidelines, and why you have chosen those guidelines, how your experience will be. what are your goals? Do you want to not gain a lot of excess weight while you are vacationing? Do you want to avoid the blah feeling and the overstuffed stomach ache feeling that leaves you unable to enjoy other activities for even a short time? Do you want to spend extra time in the bathroom while your digestive system complains to you because of your meat based indulgences? If all of the answers to these questions are no, then stay as close to your vegan diet as you can. Really. You will feel so much better for it.

No-Meatloaf for Diane!

My friend Diane, told me she’s looking for a meat-free loaf recipe that actually tastes good and looks close to the old familiar loaf. I was happy to take up the challenge and began researching loaf recipes on the internet and in my cookbooks. I discovered that lentil loaf was a popular recipe made over and over in similar ways, but yet, they were all a bit different. The technique was the same…cook the lentils, let cool. Cook the filler vegetables till soft, then set them aside to cool. Put everything in a food processor and pulse a few times till mixture holds together but still has texture and bake.

The recipe went together fairly easy and tasted good. Texture was good. Visual was good. The one thing I didn’t like was the strong taste of lentils. Now, I love a good bowl of lentil soup, but lentil loaf was new to me and I’m not sure I’m that big a fan. I was hoping to make tweaks to the recipe and make it taste differently, maybe even better. ¬†So I decided to use bulgur instead of lentils to hopefully give the loaf a firmer texture, pleasing to the pallet without the lentil taste I was kind of leery of. I played with the seasonings until I came up with something very tasty and was very easy to imagine serving this loaf with mashed potatoes, peas and mushroom gravy.

Diane, this recipe is for you. I thank you for sending me on this quest for a tasty loaf recipe.I’ve had challenges in the past baking a no-meat loaf, and so, when I tried this recipe, I was very pleased. The recipe is definitely a mixture of many different recipes I researched but with tweaks added that make it my own.

Enjoy, my friend, and thank you so very much for letting me share this challenge with you. This recipe can be made with bulgur or Lentils. The choice being up to the cook’s personal choice and preference and whoever the finished recipe is intended for.

Bulgar Oatmeal Meatless Loaf

1 carrot, 1 onion, peeled and chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

Saute above ingredients in pan over medium hear, using water saute, about 5 to 7 minutes, until softened. Set aside and let cool.

1/2 cup bulgur and 1 cup boiling water.

Add boiling water to bulgur in a heat-proof bowl or container with a lid. Let reconstitute for approximately 15 minutes, and set aside until mixture reaches room temperature.

Preheat oven to 375 F

In food processor put in sauted carrots, onions, celery and garlic. Also add in the cooled bulgur and continue adding the following ingredients to the food processor.

1 cup old-fashioned oats, uncooked

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp chili powder

3 Tbsp ground flax seed

3 Tbsp nutritional yeast

2 tsp vegan worcestershire sauce

1 Tbsp soy sauce, or Tamari sauce

2 Tbsp black bean paste

2 Tbsp tomato paste

1 Tbsp maple syrup

salt and pepper to taste

Pulse until mixture is combined, but still has texture. Don’t over process or you will get a paste.

Transfer mixture into loaf pan. To save calories and clean-up mess, use parchment paper to line the loaf pan or use a silicone loaf pan.

For the glaze, combine 4 Tbsp tomato paste, 2 Tbsp maple syrup, 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Spread over the top of the loaf, reserving some of the sauce to use as a sauce when serving the loaf.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake in oven for 30 minutes,

Remove foil and bake 10 minutes more, Remove from oven and let loaf set for 10 minutes before carefully removing from the pan.Slice with a sharp knife. Great with mashed potatoes and peas and mushroom gravy.

Any leftovers will make a great no-meat loaf sandwich.

Lentils may be used instead of bulgur. Cook 1/2 cup dried lentils until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. You should end up with 1 cup cooked lentils. Let cool and add to processor in place of bulgur and  proceed with recipe.