Well, as I've mentioned in a previous post, I live with my 2 kids and fiancé in a small town in the Texas hill country. There are no vegan restaurants out here, and the few restaurants we do have don't have vegan options. Asking a waiter about vegan options, it's normal to get a perplexed look and a "let me go check... no I'm sorry ma'am we don't have any of that here." Asking about vegetarian options do offer more suggestions, typically a cheese-smothered or cheese stuffed vegetable. Asking to take away the cheese would be asking for an almost-empty plate.
Because of this, I have to do a little more research than my non-vegan family. I know that Mexican restaurants, Chinese restaurants, and Italian restaurants are favorites among the family, and luckily they are some of the easiest menus to maneuver.
Salads are always on the menu, but just because you're "doing the vegan thing" does that mean you always have to buy an overpriced plate of lettuce and dressing when you go out? Definitely not. I am in a place in my life now where salads are for home or as a side dish. There is no reason to eat a salad as your main course unless somehow you end up at a steakhouse obligation. Even then, try to get a baked potato with steamed vegetables. I don't have a ton of money, so when I go out to eat, I make it memorable, or else why would I pay so much for my experience?
Italian spots are seriously simple. I tend to get a meal of spaghetti and marinara, hold the cheese please, and a side salad with oil and vinegar. Easy done! Delicious, filling, and usually pretty cheap in comparison to the heavier seafoody, meaty, or stuffed-with-cheesy dishes.
The one and only Chinese restaurant nearby has about seven tofu options. I'm comfortable enough at this point to ask if it's made with beef stock, chicken stock or fish sauce. My place also has vegetable spring rolls and vegetable dumplings for appetizers. Instead of egg drop soup, I usually get a larger side of steamed rice. I know, I may sound like one of those high carb low-fat vegans, but I am not. I consider myself more of a high carb, high fat, high flavor, high sodium, high soda and vegan-junk-food vegan. I am trying to be healthier, but that's coming quite slowly to me right now, with good reason too. That's a whole other blog for another day! As for now, back to eating out.
Mexican food is prevalent here, being near San Antonio. Whenever we go out to eat, the nearby Mexican place is our go-to. I'm a regular, and this is where we went over the weekend. I know my menu and I know how to order. They start off by giving us complimentary chips and salsa (which I'd happily pay for), and I eat lots and lots. Ordering is easy once I figured it out. Luckily, there are two vegetarian options: A cheese quesadilla (not easily veganizable), and veggie fajitas (which typically comes smothered in cheese, with a side of bacon beans and Spanish rice). I order the veggie fajitas with no cheese, double rice with no beans, and extra tortillas. I also usually get a margarita (or 2...) and I share my giant skillet of hot, fresh veggies with the kids. Another local Mexican restaurant offers an avocado torta (sub-style sandwich), to which I ask no cheese, no sour cream, no butter, and they seem to always give me extra avocado for it.
I also love cooking Mexican style foods at home! I think it's super simple with the right flavor-combinations to make a delicious dinner on a budget. A while back, my sister Sam and I came up with this recipe for Effortless Vegan Enchiladas, and since then I have made them pretty regularly.
Effortless Vegan Enchiladas
- 10 corn tortillas (I've used flour and corn, corn is better)
- Can of corn, drained
- Half an onion, chopped
- Tomatillo, chopped (optional, could use a tomato instead)
- Can of fat-free refried beans
- Any other ingredients you think would be good! Soyrizo, pinto beans, vegan cheese, rice, hominy, diced jalapenos, etc)
- Can of enchilada sauce (here I used red sauce, but I prefer the green variety,
- Preheat oven to 400 Fahrenheit and microwave tortillas 20 seconds, or just until they become pliable without cracking
- Pour a small amount of enchilada sauce in bottom of glass baking dish (I didn't do this in the picture, that was my first attempt, long, long ago.)
- Place tortillas in glass baking dish like a hard shell taco as shown
- Fill with all ingredients except for the enchilada sauce, add salt and pepper
- Roll tortillas uptight, filling inside, making sure the seam is now on the bottom (again, this is not how I show in the pictures, learn from my mistakes! Much more enchilada-like using the new method, and no chance of a broken toothpick ending up in your mouth, ouch)
- Cover with remaining enchilada sauce, add salt and pepper (now would be the time to add that vegan cheese)
- Cover and bake in oven for about 25-30 minutes
- Uncover and bake for 10 more minutes
- Top with cilantro, pico de gallo, guacamole, salsa verde, regular salsa, or vegan sour cream.