Now I’m Eating the Fake Bacon

Ok – so let me tell you how I got on the whole fake cheese and, eventually, fake bacon sandwich kick that I have been riding for over a week now. It all started when I was reading the current issue of Chili Pepper magazine. I’ve been a subscriber for years. I love hot sauce. I love chili peppers. It’s a good magazine for me.

But, the majority of the magazine is articles that are not vegetarian friendly and nowhere near vegan. So a little over a week ago I was looking though the recent issue. They have some yummy meat-based dishes in that issue! I was feeling a bit sad about not being able to make them. Now, I had no desire to actually make them. I have lost my taste for meat. However, I missed the idea of being able to make them. Does that make sense? I don’t know.

I found a recipe for a grilled cheese sandwich with cheddar cheese, poblano peppers, and bacon. It looked so delicious, and winter is a great time for grilled cheese sandwiches! I thought of my upcoming vegan challenge and realized I couldn’t eat this dish by a long-shot. In fact, I probably needed to just let my subscription lapse.

That’s when it hit me.

If I loved the idea of this sandwich so much why not make a vegan version of it? And so I have. It took me about 10 days to get completely right (and today I burned my fakin’ bacon), but it’s there. And you know what? It was fun to figure out. So here it is – my vegan version of the grilled cheese sandwich featured in the current issue of Chili Pepper magazine:

Ingredients:

– two slices of vegan bread; your choice. I discovered the sourdough at Whole Foods is vegan, and I’m sticking with it.

– your favorite vegan butter. for now, I am sucking it up and using Earth Balance. I’m getting used to it.

– your favorite vegan cheese. I’m sticking with Follow Your Heart brand (sadly, they do not make a vegan butter)

– a poblano pepper cut into thin strips

– fake bacon! I used Lightlife, and it is fantastic. I can eat it all by itself. It even smelled like bacon when it was cooking. Weird, right?

Make the bacon first. This will take you 2-3 minutes. Follow the directions on the package. I used two strips and found it to be a good amount.

Melt your vegan butter. Toss in a slice of bread, and layer on top of it the cheese, peppers, and bacon. Put the other slice of bread on top and cook away!

That’s it folks. You can obviously modify this a thousand ways. Leave off the bacon. Leave off the peppers. Use a different pepper. I want to use pickled jalapenos next. Put mustard on if you want to.

I had lots of fun thinking through how to take the initial recipe and turn it vegan. I have sense decided not to end my subscription but instead use it inspire future vegetarian or vegan meals. I have also written a letter to the editor encouraging him to include more vegetarian or vegan recipes. I haven’t received a response, but I literally sent it about two days ago.

If you do something like this, I found that it was easiest to do it in pieces. So first I found a vegan cheese I liked, and then everything else started to fall in place. My take on this is that, espicially right now, there is no need to spend a bunch of money on new food items to see if I like them. If I don’t, I have wasted a bunch of money and product. So once the cheese fell into place then I felt like I could expand out. The bacon was the last thing I added, and I did it today.

I feel so much better eating a mostly vegan diet for the last seven-ish days. I’m not on the vegan challenge yet (end of January is when it begins), but I am working on developing a menu. This means more of my meals are mindfully vegan than ever before. It’s challenging, but in a fun and rewarding way.

One Step at a Time

My poor father. When I told him I was becoming a vegetarian, he became confused. He does not understand what I eat. He understands I no longer eat meat, but he doesn’t see what comes in place of it. He thinks all I am allowed to eat is vegetables. He will still ask me if I am still only eating vegetables. I have to explain to him what I eat on a regular basis. I have sent him recipes for very simple vegetarian cooking (he asked), but that didn’t seem to help.

So now I want to do a 30-day vegan challenge. Boy, if my father was confused be the vegetarian thing he’s really screwed up by the vegan one! His first response was something like, “Ok. So now, you’re only going to eat vegetables, right?” I don’t know why he thinks I can’t eat fruit.

I asked him if he knew what it meant to be vegan, and he did! He understood it meant I couldn’t eat anything that contained any products from an animal. So, vegetables, right? ūüôā

I sent him the link to the 30-day vegan challenge¬†and invited him to join me. Now, I know this is a very hard thing I am asking him to do. He’s not even a vegetarian. I don’t expect someone to just drop everything and go vegan unless they are motivated to do so. My father does not have that level of motivation. He has only a curiosity.

I suggested he go vegan for one meal a day – any meal. His choice. Of course there are other ways to craft the challenge like one full day a week or one dinner a week and so on….He thought that those ideas seemed reasonable. BUT, he immediately started crafting different scenarios where it would be challenging for him to stick with it. Well, hey, it is a challenge. I think it should be a challenge that makes sense to your life, but it’s not always going to be a walk in the park.

My dad’s concern, and he is retired, is how to be vegan if he’s out fishing. That’s his concern. It may seem silly (oh – and the thought that he might eat a vegan lunch while catching fish, I don’t think he caught on to the absurdity of that), but it’s his concern. I told him he was in control of his food and what he packed for his lunch. He can recgonize that but would still like for everyone to know he thinks it’s hard to do.

You know what? It is hard to do. It is hard to wrap your brain around a different way of eating and break out of old dietary habits. Look at me with butter. I am spending an unholy amount of time lately thinking about butter. I even found recipes for making my own vegan butter and am considering it. But for someone new to all this? Thinking so much about one ingredient, and likely a major ingredient, can be overwhelming. It could be enough to make you walk away from it.

I tried to show him how simple it could be – spaghetti with tomato sauce and no cheese. So if you’re reading this and thinking it would be nice to make a dietary change like becoming vegetarian or vegan or giving up soda (or whatever!)¬†but feel like you don’t know where to start, know that’s just normal. You don’t need to do an overhaul. You just need to do one thing. For example, my new favorite lunch this week has been a grilled cheese sandwich using vegan Follow Your Heart¬†cheddar cheese. The bread is probably not vegan. The butter I am cooking it in is not vegan. But I also know I can only handle so much at once. Finding a vegan cheese that would work for me was the first step, and that took several experiments to get right. My next step would be fixing the bread or butter to be vegan. That is progress. And that is how I think you change your lifestyle and eating habits – one baby step at a time.

 

Cheese Won’t be the Issue

So I thought that when we started our 30-day vegan challenged (starting sometime in January), that my biggest issue would be not eating cheese. Thankfully, I am learning that I am not missing cheese as much as I thought I would. The Follow Your Heart¬†vegan cheese I had the other night was good. It was so good on a grilled cheese sandwich that I have had it for lunch the last two days. I am not missing dairy cheese (at the moment), and I’m thankful I found a good vegan alternative. What would winter be without a grilled cheese? Seriously, I could easily replace dairy cheese with the vegan cheese from Follow Your Heart right now in my sandwich. I think the key is that the cheese has to be melted. I am not a big fan of it in the unmelted state.

You know what the issue is going to be? Butter. I love me some butter. Don’t tell me to use Earth Balance because I have, and that stuff is just not good. I don’t even enjoy making a grilled cheese sandwich in it. I tried some Earth Balance in a risotto, and it was gross. There were some other things that conrtibuted to the issues my risotto had (like some vegan cheese that did not work well or taste good), but I could tell that it was missing the flavor provided by the butter. I am a liberal user of butter when I cook so I need to figure this out. Follow Your Heart does not make butter.

Any suggestions?

Tonight we are having a vegan dinner (and I had a vegan breakfast) which is bombay potatoes over jasmine rice. My goal is to start making different vegan dinners here and there to experiment and get a taste for what we do and do not like. Right now, since we’r enot on the challenge, any meal I screw up can be replaced with a pizza. If I screw up dring the challenge I am not sure what our go-to meal will be, but for now, it’s Big Cheese Pizza.

I also purchased Veganomicon¬†and have started identifying things to try. I haven’t made anything from the book yet, but I am looking forward to doing so. Going vegan for 30 days won’t be as difficult as switching over to vegetarian. I’m not saying it’ll be easy, but that initial shift over to vegetarian was a much more difficult and overwhelming one – and I wanted to do it!

So far I’ve got one additional person who wants to join in the challenge with me. You don’t have to be local to do it. We can have our own group here. Maybe it seems like too much. I can understand that. Could you go vegan for one meal, any meal, every day? Could you do a vegan meal once a week? Design your own challenge! Who’s in?