Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter: Bunny, Hot Cross Buns, P.F. Changs (fail), and Vegan Peeps

After all of the skill and effort that goes into Passover, Easter comes too quickly on its heels not to give VM a break from cooking.  So, frighteningly, I take the helm.

The Easter Bunny made an early appearance at my house.  Doesn't it look like a giant popcorn ball?

While book shopping recently, VM & I somehow got on the topic of the plastic Easter egg hunts of my childhood.  Hidden all over the house, the change-filled (sometimes a, I'm old), colored orbs somehow took precedence over the giant Easter baskets filled with candy.  I'm sure I don't need to tell you that wouldn't happen today; candy beats money.  Cuz what would I buy with money?  Candy.  Anyhoo, she recalled that when she was a kid her mom hid hard-boiled eggs.  Yes, real hard-boiled eggs.  This isn't just the vegan in me talking, people; who in their right mind- vegan or not vegan- would be excited to search for and find real hard-boiled eggs?  Gag. 

But back to the present: for breakfast there were hot cross buns, courtesy of Vegan Dad's recipe.  I never liked these fruitbit-ladened buns at all, but they are one of things VM still eats that prevents her from being vegan.  As I conquer veganize the few remaining things on this list, she has no excuse!

the prettiest one of the batch

As far as hot cross buns go, these were fantastic and surprisingly authentic.  Ok, they were also a bit of a pain to make: a lot of dishes.

before the first rise

after the first rise

evenly dividing the dough

ready to bake

It's not something I'd make for myself when I could have, say, chocolate, but they were very good.

decorating fail
More importantly, VM enjoyed immensely and promised to eat only these vegan ones from now on!  Score one for me, another loss for Entenmann's.

For dinner, I made...reservations!  When there's a stubborn omnivore in the family, P.F. Changs* is one of the last vestiges of sanity the place to go.  Where else in suburbia can you so easily dine with just about anyone, of any dietary ilk or persuasion?  The best part about Changs, besides the fact that they have so many vegetarian (vegan by default) options, is that they initiate the conversation by beginning each dining experience with an inquiry about dietary restrictions. So nice for a mainstream restaurant to care (The Cheesecake Factory doesn't).  And, while they make no claims as to whether or not the sugar they use is bone-char refined, how cool is it that they know what that even means?  P.F. Changs, in my opinion, is the most respectful and delicious mainstream choice vegans can find in the suburbs.  [Update 4/25/11: In response to a reader's comment below, I contacted P.F. Chang's for clarification.  They tweeted, PFChangs: @beanmail We do not claim that any of our dishes are vegan."  Needless to say, this was extremely disappointing considering it is totally inconsistent with the information I have been provided with by servers on countless occasions.  Once other vegans joined in the Twitter conversation, P.F. Chang's clarified with this statement: "PFChangs: @beanmail We do not claim our vegetarian dishes are vegan because of the sugar used in the sauces.", which is what I said (above).  Yet my request for further clarification of which vegetarian items do not contain dairy, egg, or animal stock yielded a personal email listing most of their vegetarian items, with the glaring omission of both the vegetarian spring rolls and dumplings (I am not reproducing the listing here because of the confidentiality note in the email I received)- proving that the sugar factor isn't the only non-vegan culprit within their vegetarian items.  Suffice it to say I was giving P.F. Chang's way too much credit; the standard vegan rule applies; always check, double-check, and triple-check when ordering...then hope for the best.  In closing, I'm glad that most of the things I order are vegan, but I'm not happy with the company's inconsistent message- especially given their supposed concern about dietary restrictions.] 

Now onto the grub.  Because we have no self-control, In anticipation of this review, VM and I ordered all of our veg favorites.  So, for those of you who have never had the pleasure of dining at Chang's, feast your eyes on our meal.

(yes, plural!)

Chang's Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps: "A vegetarian version of our signature appetizer with tofu instead of chicken".  Ok, granted they could do much better with the description, but these are fantastic.  Their iceberg is always crisp and perfect, the tofu cooked to perfection with diced veggies and crunchy water chestnuts.  Add some of the spicy sauce from the table (mustard + potsticker sauce + sambal olek) and you're good to go.

Vegetable Dumplings: [4/25/11: not vegan]

Spring Rolls: [4/25/11: not vegan]

Green Tea Noodes: these are technically a side, but I like to order them as an appetizer.  The thin, cool and startlingly green-hued noodles are a refreshing, light contrast to the fried appetizers.  They come sprinkled with scallions (yum) and loaded with fresh cilantro (eew), so order accordingly.

And for Dinner:
(don't worry; most of it is now leftovers)

Coconut Curry Vegetables: "Stir-fried mixed vegetables, crispy silken tofu and peanuts in a vegetarian coconut curry sauce"; this is my favorite meal at Chang's.  Add some more of the spicy sauce (you might need to order extra at some point), mix with rice, and your tummy will be happy.

Vegetable Chow Fun: "Soft, wide rice noodles and vegetables in a vegetarian sauce"; this is VM's favorite.  It's not that she doesn't like the curry; she really does.  She just doesn't like the silken tofu.  However, if I order her Chow Fun with the five-spiced, pressed tofu added in, I can sometimes get her to actually eat a few bits pieces. Note: Chang's will sub either version of tofu for you in anything.

Changs does not offer a vegan dessert option, but I kind of prefer the abstention over the obligatory fresh fruit bowl or sorbet.  No matter, I had my dessert waiting for me at home.

PEEPS!!!  Yes, Sweet & Sara has done it again: the familiar, somewhat unsettling crunch of sugar-coated marshmallows has returned and they are just as ridiculously sweet as you remember and love.  Not to mention, look how cute they are!

Happy Easter.

* Eons ago I was in one of the Carolinas for a wedding. I honestly can't remember which one of the Carolinas; the visit is just a blur of the impossibility of acquiring a vegan meal where we were and the horrors of what parts of the animal were thrown into vegetables "to give them flavor".  After literally subsisting on sweet tea for two days, it almost seemed a mirage when I came upon the first P.F Changs I'd ever encountered and saw the word "tofu" on the menu! Harpsichords sounded and I floated in without thought to the preference of the full-bellied omnivores I was traveling with.  Little did I know that there would something on the menu for everyone; I didn't care.


  1. Dear Abby,

    I can't believe you did so much in one day. Well, on the other hand, maybe I do believe it. Although I've never had a hot cross bun, I must say, yours look fabulous. I think you should quit your day job and become a vegan baker and cook. I would very much support this move as I think most of your readers would too. The vegan world needs more of Abby Bean.

  2. Vegan Gut, I'm incredibly flattered...especially since I've recently taken inventory & decided that I personally need there to be less of Abby Bean!

  3. Your hot cross buns look fantastic! It looks like you had a fun Easter.

    I was so bummed when I was told at P.F. Chang's a year or so ago that the dumplings are not vegan. There's egg in the wrapper. Up to that point I'd heard that all of the vegetarian items are vegan, but our server was vegan, double checked with the chef, and broke the news to me. Perhaps they've changed since then, but you might want to ask the next time you go.

  4. LOVE how far you are coming with the vegan conversion process on your mom. I am slowly working on my mom too...what items do you have left to tackle?

  5. I love P.F. Changs but where on earth is there one close to the city?!

  6. Hi Cadry,
    This is unsettling news because I always tell the server I'm vegan and the response is always that their vegetarian items are vegan by default (except, possibly, for the sugar).

    Like mother, like daughter. The last thing I gave up were yodels and she cannot resist things like hot cross buns and cannolis. No one can seem to perfectly duplicate them to this Italian lady's extremely high cannoli standard! I am on the case...

    Unfortunately there aren't any "near" the city; my fam lives in the suburbs!

  7. Cadry,
    Please see disappointing update above. Good looking out!

  8. Ms. Bean, Why is there no Crazy Rumor bunny post in honor of Spring Holiday? Also, don't you know that Easter Egg has been replaced with the far more appealing Spring Sphere?

    And personally I was unimpressed with PF Chang's, but it may be because I had to watch my family eat non-vegan food, and then watched the same family eat a non-vegan birthday cake while I sat there with a plate of tofu and veggies and then a stale vegan cookie from Whole Foods. It was my birthday, and my cake...

  9. Anthony, you are absolutely right. There will be another post for Crazy Rumors to make up for my glaring omission from bunny day. As for your family, you must have really wronged them in order for them to get you a non-vegan birthday cake. Maybe you've dined with them at Maoz?

  10. You win for best peep show!

    (LOL, I crack myself up)

  11. Sarah, that was a good one!

    Bess- Also lemon meringue pie. That meringue: so gross, so elusive in the vegan world.


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