Yesterday was a hangover day for my little sister (and today is one for me, unfortunately). We had already made plans to get manicures and pedicures in preparation for her big batchelorette weekend in Orlando coming up on Thursday, and with company in town we had no room to budge on that. I'm really not sure that I can think of a worse punishment for excess indulgence than sitting in a nail salon that smells very strongly of ear wax and nail polish remover, so I was really proud of her for pushing through. We went to the nail salon by Earth Origins that has shellac, because Robyn's nails always look amazing when she gets it. (Side note: this is yet another reason why I can only be considered an almost-vegan. When I googled "shellac" to check the spelling, I found out that it is a resin secreted by the female lac bug. Hahaha, she-lac. Funny. Another reason why I'm almost vegan? It doesn't really bother me because the bugs secrete the resin onto the bark of the tree and then it is scraped from there. I guess I'd need to see a video of the lac bug getting harmed from this process for it to affect me, because I can't picture it.)
Anyway, our manicures always chip the day we get them, so we opted for the shellac in a pretty pale pink. As we endured the half torture, half awesomeness that is a pedicure, we paged through the cookbook Quick and Easy Vegan Comfort Food by Alicia C. Simpson. I've been ignoring this cookbook for a while, even though the few recipes I've used have turned out nicely, because I've never been huge on fake meeeeet and cheeze. Recently I've been more into experimenting with that stuff (and I'm getting fatter too, so I might stop), so I decided to bust out with some vegan hangover relief for Kristen. Everything sounded delicious, but we went with two vegan spins on American classics: mac and cheeze and buffalo chikn sandwiches. (Official recipe name for the buffalo chikn = The Hot Chick. There were two other chikn sandwich ideas, too. I'll give you the titles, and you can imagine the sandwiches! The Fat Chick and 1000 Chicks. Good luck.)
Our company was not around, so the menu was planned for Kristen and me, with an option for my dad. If you know my dad, and you know how sensitive I can be, and you read the title for this post, then your prediction is probably correct. I'll get to that later. We went to Earth Origins for the missing ingredients, which gets a shout out for having 10% off everything on Sundays! Using Earth Origins instead of Publix was essential, because this mac and cheeze recipe is the kind that uses nuts, oils, spices, and cooked vegetables to emulate a cheesy sauce. The bulk section at Earth Origins allowed us to purchase the exact amount we needed. Let me rephrase, it allowed us to purchase an estimation of exactly what we needed, since for some crazy reason they don't provide any measuring materials at the bulk station. My macadamia nut estimation of 1/3 cup was almost spot on; my cashew estimation of 1/3 cup was so crazy at an actual 1 cup! How I didn't estimate the same amount for the same measurement eludes and confuses me. Oh well, my kindergarten students always beat me in estimation activities anyway, so I guess it's just not my strength.
OK, apparently I can go on and on about a trip to the grocery store, so I'm going to fast forward here to the prep of the mac and cheeze. Kristen and I worked like crazy in her kitchen trying to get everything ready because we were starving. We were moving along nicely and quickly for once, splitting the work in a logical way, until we got to the step with the blender. I do not own a blender, and Kristen's blender is new to her in this capacity as well. Those of you who cook probably know where this is going. We poured the simmering potatoes, carrots, onions, and their cooking water into the blender, along with the nuts, oil, and spices. We put the blender cap on, without opening the little hole, and Kristen held it down and turned the blender on, high speed. Damn. Explosion. It looked like vomit, all over the blender, in Kristen's water glass, on the floor, on the counter, on the hot sauce bottle...everywhere. It sucked. Don't put hot stuff in a blender unless you know what you're doing. I think I'll go to a Food Network Demo Video or something for next time.
After that, things got easier. We assembled the ingredients in a baking dish with panko on top, and popped it in the oven. It came out looking like mac and cheese!
While the mac and cheeze was in the oven, we worked on the buffalo chikn sandwiches. Kristen had some buns, tomatoes, and spinach/arugula mix, so all we needed was fake mayo, hot sauce (duh - Frank's - please don't even tell me if it's not vegan. Please.), and chikn. Last time I bought fake mayo, it wasn't actually fake. Why even make Lemonaise if it's not for people who don't eat dairy? Nobody who is on a regular diet wants Lemonaise. Trust me, it's not even very good, and I'm a fan of lemon. This time I was pleased to find Earth Balance Mindful Mayo with Olive Oil. It was just as good as Earth Balance Buttery Spread, yummmmmm. For the chikn, we decided to go with the Gardein 7 Grain Crispy Tenders, because those for real taste like chicken and I'm obsessed with them. We marinated them in the hot sauce for ten minutes. Next time, I won't do that, I'll just toss the chikn in the Frank's after cooking. The chikn was still good, just a little soggy on the outside. We toasted the buns, put some Mindful Mayo on, and topped the buffalo chikn with tomato, spinach, and arugula. At this point my dad was really letting us know how hungry he was, so we made him one with real provolone cheese on top.
Kristen and I informed dad that the mac and cheeze could be thought of as a pasta dish with a vegetable and oil-based sauce so that he wouldn't directly compare it to real mac and cheese, and that the sandwich was not real chicken. He said he'd eat it, which SHOCKED me. I had no expectations of my dad giving this meal a chance. I started thinking, wow, what a great opportunity to show my dad that you don't always have to have meat and dairy to enjoy a tasty meal. I had no delusions of him becoming a vegan and singing my praises for opening his eyes to a whole new world, a dazzling place he never knew, but I was hoping for a little more respect on the personal diet choices front. I tasted my food, and I was so proud of us for creating this comfort food that really did taste cheesy and comforting, meaty and spicy. It tasted real, or almost-real, and my sister agreed. My dad took a bite of each, walked into the kitchen with his plate, and slammed it in the trash without a word. Even though he was "so hungry hours ago," our vegan food was not good enough for him. I'm not trying to call my dad out on the Internet or anything, and I certainly respect and love him with all my heart, but grrrrr. He must not have understood that when you make extreme lifestyle choices for a very personal reason, and they are very different from the norm, you are very sensitive to negativity. It's so unnecessary.
Kristen and I took our plates into the other room and enjoyed our food in peace while catching up on last week's episode of True Blood, stuffing our faces and exclaiming how delicious it was and how close it tasted to the dishes with the classic ingredients. Maybe Kristen really meant it, or maybe not, but either way she made me feel good about sharing a vegan meal with someone who was open-minded and kind. I'm really lucky to have her as my sister.
(And after washing dishes used in the preparation of two recipes, my shellac held up perfectly. I am admiring it as I type right now. I can't believe it's real, and I can't believe it's not vegan!)