My Vegan(ish) Weekend

My boyfriend and I decided to test the limits of my culinary skills and our appetites and sanity by having an all vegan weekend this past weekend.  An all vegan LONG weekend even!  This decision was brought on as a way to complete a post-holiday detox and move away from all the junk we ate over Christmas.

Mind you, being that my family is Chinese, we did not have a holiday ham replete with starchy sides and sugary desserts.  For our holiday dinner, we had a Chinese hot pot, where you simmer vegetables and sides like tofu, fish cakes and daikon radish in a hot broth that you cook pieces of raw meat and seafood in.  You then pluck it out of the hot pot and drop it into your bowl where you've made a concoction of soy sauce, vinegar and sha cha, a smoky, aromatic and not sweet type of Chinese barbecue sauce.  It's perfect for winter, it's communal and it brings the family together in a very basic, almost primitive way.

My boyfriend's family, however, is not the same.  I've always joked that I like to date because then I get to have the holidays that I get to see on TV, where families have Easter egg hunts, big turkeys and elaborate Christmas meals.  My boyfriend's family does not disappoint.

At hand at all times were meats, hams, cookies, cake, petit fours, cheesecakes, chocolate dipped pretzels from Sarris' (a Pennsylvania institution.  Some of you know what I'm talking about.), candied popcorn, sodas, punch, cheeses, hour d'oeuvres, chocolates, nuts... you name it!  And I mean at hand at all times.  I like to pretend that I have awesome self control, but the only reason I'm not 8000 lbs is because I don't keep any stuff like that in my house.  So I grazed, and munched, and binged, and devoured, and tasted and slurped and crunched.

Needless to say, we were feeling pretty lousy about ourselves after the holiday, so vegan diet it was!

Here's how we did it:

We had lunch at Northstar Cafe, now with three locations including the original Short North, Clintonville and the brand new Easton store.  I had the Northstar burger, which will be hands down the best veggie burger you've ever had.  My boyfriend had the sweet basil burrito with tofu.  (Ask for extra sauce.)  You can get almost everything made into a vegetarian or vegan dish there.  Perfect place for mixed (carnivore/omnivore/veggie) company.3

I made a vegetable korma using a canned sauce that I bought at World Market over in Lennox.  Mixed it with some fresh vegetables, simmered it and served over brown rice with seared tofu.

I also made a Thai creamy coconut curry adding kale and red bell peppers to this recipe.

Next we went to Tasi in the Short North, a wonderful brunch location.  I broke my veganism and had the smoked salmon bagel because it's honestly too good to pass up.  Everything there is amazing and you need to try it.  You won't be disappointed.

And finally, we made a Korean meal at home of an eggplant dish, kimchi fried rice (minus any of the meat ingredients) and fried tofu (first recipe on the page).

As you can see, it's not too hard to be vegetarian or even vegan.  None of these recipes left us wanting for meat or dairy, and we felt great.

I will admit, on this final note, that on Monday, we attempted to go to a vegetarian Southern Indian restaurant by Northland called Udipi Cafe.  It was highly recommended by our friend and the price point was great.  Unfortunately, it was closed.  Instead we went to El Paso Mexican Restaurant and Taqueria.  This place was definitely not vegan.

I had the caminate torta, which is breaded chicken, refried beans, a fried egg, avocado, lettuce, tomato, and cheese on a buttery bun.  I could only finish half of it and took the rest home.

My boyfriend had the pollo empanizado which roughly translates to breaded chicken.  It was three breasts pounded thin and breaded, served with rice, refried beans, lettuce, tomato and a whole sliced avocado.  Both dishes were only $8 each!

If you're not familiar with the Northland area, it may be a little jarring to you.  It's not the nicest area anymore, but neither is it dangerous.  It's worth checking out if only for El Paso and for the Super Seafood Chinese Buffet which has all you can eat crab legs on the weekends.

Let me know what you think of these recipes and the restaurants!

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