One of the most unexpected perks of being a vegan in a city like ours is getting to know all the grocery store employees. Yes, you read that right. All the grocery store employees. All of them. At all the stores. The employees certainly know me, but it seems my husband is often the one tasked with running out to grab an ingredient. When I go to the store with him, I swear he’s greeted by store employees like the bar customers greeted Norm on the 80s sitcom Cheers. The grocery store: Where everybody knows the vegan’s name.
We are grocery store famous because it often takes visiting most of the grocery stores in town to collect the items we need each week. I’m not talking crazy obscure, either. For instance, tonight I popped in to the closest store for a couple of things I needed for dinner. Fresh veggies? Okay, they have those. Red lentils? Nope. Non-dairy sour cream? Nope. Daiya cheese? Okay, that one’s probably pushing it, but still, nope.
It doesn’t make it better if we do all the shopping at once. If we do a marathon trip and hit all the stores, our fridge ends up looking like we’re stocking up for the apocalypse. Fresh veggies take up a lot of space! Then no one can find anything, everybody whines a lot, and there’s likely going to be a stinky accident involving pickle juice or spilled applesauce or hidden, over-ripe leftovers. It’s not a good scene.
What’s sad is that being a vegan isn’t difficult. Really, it’s that finding food options in a market where there isn’t a lot of product diversity is. I also don’t want all those artificial ingredients in my family’s food, and being a label reader is eye-opening and challenging as well. It’s not a “vegan thing.” Being a vegan is easy; finding food without unwanted additives is a chore.
Tonight, I decided to make Green and Red Lentil Enchiladas from Sarah Matheny’s Peas and Thank You. http://www.amazon.com/Peas-Thank-You-Simple-Meatless/dp/0373892403/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1351652820&sr=8-1&keywords=peas+and+thank+you
My first substitute was brown lentils because the nearest grocery store doesn’t carry red lentils. Next I headed over to the Ethnic Foods aisle to grab a can of green enchilada sauce. Hmm. This wasn’t as simple as I’d hoped as every can of green enchilada sauce not only listed Monosodium Glutamate as an ingredient, it listed it high on the list. Additionally, most of the cans listed “natural flavors” as an ingredient, a listing that I distrust and won’t consume without further investigation. Argh!
Red enchilada sauce was on the next shelf, and I discovered that it had neither of those yuckies listed. Weird! I have no idea why one is green and one is red, but I figure that if the green needs MSG, maybe it’s not so great anyway. To compensate for not buying the green sauce, I impulsively bought a small can of diced jalapenos to add to the red. My reasoning was that jalapenos are green, so… Yeah. That was the extent of my reasoning.
I put the red sauce and the jalapenos in the food processor for a minute before beginning work on the recipe. The green was totally hidden, but I knew it was there and that made me happy. I followed the recipe instructions, and popped my cute little enchiladas into the oven while I moved on to the rice.
Zatarain’s to the rescue once again! Their Spanish Rice is awesome because not only is it vegan, it also doesn’t have any MSG in it. I used a can of fire-roasted tomatoes in the mix with pretty gorgeous results. So simple!
Since I had the time, I steamed some Grande Classics Caribbean Blend frozen veggies, then tossed them into a pan with just the tiniest bit of olive oil. I sprinkled them with onion powder, crushed red chilies, and chopped cilantro. The vibrant veggies could hardly wait to take their places on our plates!
Everything came together at just about the same time, which is always lovely. Alongside these yummies, I served tortilla chips, shredded lettuce, chopped tomato, sliced avocado, and sour cream my husband picked up on his way home.
I am extremely thankful that he got that sour cream. Remember my impulsive decision to throw in that can of jalapenos? Well, that decision caught up with me in the end. Although I love spicy, I’m a bit of a lightweight. Sour cream helped me tame the savage beast I’d created. The guys, they enjoyed watching me realize how spicy I’d made dinner almost as much as they enjoyed the enchiladas — which they ate using a normal amount of sour cream. Like I said, I’m a bit of a lightweight!
“I’d serve this to anyone, vegan or otherwise!” my husband announced after dinner. We sat for a moment, happily stuffed full of good food. Then we jumped up and quickly washed the dishes so he could go run other errands. You know, the pet food store, the drug store, the computer place, the… Good times, good times. Sometimes you gotta go where nobody knows your name. But that’s okay, because another visit to the grocery store surely awaits him in the near future, and that’s a place where everybody knows his name!