My one cheat meal

In the beginning of this project, I specified that there was one very special exception to my year of restaurant abstinence. And that’s this pile of creamy, garlicky, vegan, special goodness:

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It’s not a secret that I do eat meat, and I choose to eat high-quality protein at every opportunity and avoid particularly poor choices. I choose wild-caught over farm-raised, antibiotic- and hormone-free when applicable, cage-free, free-range, grass-fed, organic, vegetarian-fed, small-farm-raised, local, wild game, and try not to waste the food I’ve been privileged enough to buy and consume. I choose vegetarian and vegan when the product is just pretty tasty or the protein quality is questionable or low. But this particular macaroni and cheese is served up at a local vegan cafe run by a quirky activist and anarchist and made by he and his staff with love. Really. This pasta always tastes like someone that loves me cooked for me. The cafe even knows my voice on the phone and makes mine gluten-free.

I was thrilled to see this dish on the always-rotating menu at the cafe this week, thinking I’d grab some several times through the week. Tuesday night, I drowned in free shots at a neighborhood bar with a pal I wanted to get to know better, and I woke up Wednesday afternoon with the worst hangover in years. I haven’t been so nauseated and apologetic since I was maybe one day past my ill-spent twenty-third birthday at a Russian bar with homemade horseradish-infused vodka.

Wednesday I just tried to pack in the nutrients: two vitamins instead of one, a supplement, a big glass of water (sipped, slowly), and breakfast on the bathroom floor. Pumpkin soup was the only thing I remotely thought I could choke down, but that sugar really fought me. I won, and was able to get up in time to get to the cafe and grab the macaroni and cheese. Excellent. Comfort food. The supreme, ultimate comfort food in my life.

I picked up my pal after picking up my food, and we shared the special treat. But instead of enjoying the creamy goodness all on its own, I stopped to reheat our portions. Something about this dish just doesn’t reheat in the microwave very well, and I was a little disappointed that I’d sort of sucked all of the creaminess out of the food and was left with a sticky, blander version. Plus, I gave her most of the delicious kale when I split the portions up. Oops.

Throughout the rest of the week, I had a hard time finding enough time to make it to the cafe, and ended up missing my chance on getting more macaroni. ‘Til next time, love of my life.

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Yellow curry dinner and pumpkin soup

I’d never attempted a curry before, but this surprisingly didn’t turn out too badly. I was scatterbrained and needed to eat before work without a lot of time to cook. And since I haven’t had Indian food in over a year and I’m trying to branch out a little in my cooking before making any repeats, I thought I’d just wing it. I read several recipes on the interwebz before deciding there wasn’t much use in following one exactly. This curry was just a pleasant hodgepodge of what I had on hand and what I had time to make.

I started with a package of chicken breast tenders cooking in a few tablespoons of olive oil, and flipped them halfway through cooking. I added about 6oz chicken bone broth (packaged), 16oz coconut milk, garlic powder, salt, white pepper, 1/8 cup white sugar, 1 tablespoon lime juice and lemon juice, and two spoonfuls of yellow curry powder (tumeric and cinnamon, mostly). I heated it all over medium-high heat, simmering, until the chicken was definitely done and the sauce thickened and reduced a little. The sauce was pleasantly and surprisingly sweet, and I topped the whole thing with cilantro. I wasn’t expecting it to be very good at all, and it wasn’t like anything I’d ever eaten at a Thai or Indian place, but hell, it was good. And it was good enough to reheat twice for additional leftovers.

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Pumpkin soup is what I make when I really don’t want to be an adult anymore and just want to eat dessert for dinner. See, it looks fancy, and tastes amazing, but at its heart is mostly pie filling. If you wanted, it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to top it with whipped cream instead of (or in addition to) walnuts. This stuff keeps very well, reheats like a champ, and is the sneakiest way ever to have dessert for dinner.

For pumpkin soup, heat all of these ingredients over medium-low heat until warm enough to serve. If immediately refridgerating, no need to heat and simply reheat later in the microwave or on the stove.

  • 1 can (15oz) pureed pumpkin
  • fill that empty pumpkin can halfway with your choice of milk (I use unflavored almond milk for cooking in my house, but certainly heavy cream, cow’s milk, oat milk, hemp milk, etc would all be fine — make this vegan if you wish!)
  • add 1/3 can or about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of coconut milk — the higher quality, the better
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/8 cup white sugar or agave
  • pinch of salt
  • nutmeg and cinnamon to taste: add slowly, stir well, probably half as much nutmeg as cinnamon
  • top with candied walnuts, available in the salad section of the grocery

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