I hate being a wanna-be…
But I can’t resist a challenge.
Over the past year or so, my friends and family have been hearing a word from me that they hadn’t heard very often before. And now they’re hearing it all the time. And by my count, they are getting sick of hearing it.
Vegan. Veganveganvegan. Vegan times infinity plus one!
So there 😛
The truth is, I’m not one, although I’m getting there. For the past two days and the week before this previous weekend, as well as a nibble or two of a most-likely-not-vegan baked good left in the teacher’s lounge aside, I have not eaten anything of animal origin.
…oh wait, I forgot my bread has honey in it.
Okay, so maybe not.
But I do the best I can at keeping my diet this way. My meals are set up so that they are free of dairy, eggs, and meat. It’s been a while since I’ve used any dairy or eggs in my baked goods. Aside from our recent trip to San Diego, it has also been a while since my husband has had meat for dinner.
No, he hasn’t shrivelled up and died. …yet. He claims his daily turkey sandwich for lunch keeps him breathing. My lunch, as my recent visit with a physician’s assistant revealed, has also not changed much –
“So what did you eat for lunch Monday?”
“A veggie patty and a salad.”
“Black bean soup and a salad.”
“A veggie patty and a salad.”
“Rice and beans and -”
“And a salad?”
I don’t like labels. I especially don’t like labelling my eating habits. But in any case, even without being strictly vegan, I would classify my diet as heavily plant-based.
It started being more like that a little over a year ago when I lamented my weight fluctuations to my physician. He attributed it (rightly so) to inconsistencies in my lifestyle, but offered to do a few blood tests and asked if I would be willing to see that center’s nutritionist for a resting metabolic rate test. I agreed, saw the nutritionist, discovered my RMR, and also took home a fair amount of information from her about nutrition (shocker – Thai curry is high in calories!). In addition, I started reading a couple publications from the hospital I volunteered at, which happens to be Adventist.
The Adventists traditionally adhere to a strict vegetarian (or “vegan”) diet (vegans go further with the lifestyle commitment by not purchasing anything of animal origin, including wool, silk, leather, as well as cosmetics and other items that contain animal products). They are one of three people groups recently identified by National Geographic that contain a very high proportion of centenarians. And they are one of the only groups of people whose numbers of centenarians are not declining. This is attributed mostly to their diet and to a lifestyle associated with their Adventist beliefs.
With a bit more research, which I won’t dwell on, I was convinced that avoiding animal products in my diet was the best way to go (for largely health and environmental reasons – I don’t have too many “soft fuzzy” feelings about animals, with the exception of pigs, and I hate chickens [the animals themselves] – which my dad says “Are vegetables. Because squash is smarter than chickens.” But I can’t stand preparing chicken – ultimately my grossed-outedness at preparing chicken ruins most of the satisfaction I get from the cooked meal). I was also enticed by the challenge of creating meals and baked goods without dairy and eggs.
It has been a very productive quest.
I’ve made everything from stir fries…
to cheesecake… (this one is also “raw” – a food trend I don’t necessarily agree with)
to tacos, to even…
a Thanksgiving meal (turkey and stuffing aside…) vegan.
My husband is a carnivore; I have no hope or aspiration of converting him to this “dark side”. But I do ask him after he finishes his portion of whatever recipe I make what his opinion is. A positive review goes like this –
“Pretty good for rabbit food.”
Among his favorites are red lentil dal, enchiladas, and even pudding (scroll down to the bottom of the hyperlinked page).
This past weekend, at a family gathering in California, was a bit of a test for me. I was thankfully in the company of another person who also leans vegetarian, but is not fully opposed to eating fish or poultry. With her help, I was able to scrounge together some food resources to keep my breakfasts and lunches within more plant-based lines. I did break into the delicious chicken salad and also had a tuna steak for dinner one night and salmon another…
While I enjoyed all the meals, I felt like I ultimately would not miss the presence of fish and eggs (one of my biggest hangups with going vegan) in my day to day life. Especially with how good I am at selecting quality vegan recipes on my own.
So I think I will stick to rabbit food. And cheat during holidays or while being served food at another person’s house.
My experiment for this coming weekend is this recipe, along with my own attempt at meatless meatballs using quinoa and chickpea flour.
I leave you with a couple recipes to try – one the best “mac n’ cheese”s, vegan or not, I have ever had, along with my own blueberry muffin recipe that contains ingredients non-vegans are likely to have, is low in added sugar, high in fiber, and as my husband says – “Pretty good for rabbit food.” (i.e. it’s DELICIOUS).
For this I recommend cooking 8 oz of dry macaroni for the sauce recipe given, and also adding freshly roasted hot-peppers, or roasted mini sweet peppers if you don’t like the heat. I also added these vegan Mexican Chipotle sausages).
Makes 10 muffins (yes, only ten)
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup quick-cooking (not instant) oats
- 2 Tbsp ground flax seed (optional)
- 1/4 cup organic/natural sugar*
- 1/2 tsp salt**
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 1/3 cup canola or grape seed oil
- 1/2 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk (soy or almond)
- 1 medium banana, mashed***
- 1 cup blueberries (frozen is fine, but it will turn your batter purple)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly spray a muffin tin with oil.
- Combine whole wheat flour, oats, flax seed, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a large mixing bowl.
- In a separate bowl, gently whisk together the oil, milk, and mashed banana.
- Stir liquid ingredients into dry ingredients with a fork until just moistened. Fold blueberries into the muffin mix.
- Spoon batter into muffin tin, filling each about 3/4 of the way full.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the muffins have just started to pull away from the sides of the pan and a tester inserted into a muffin comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan 3-5 minutes, then transfer to a baking rack to cool completely. When reheating the muffins, placing them in a warm (200 degree) oven is recommended.
*Regular white sugar and regular brown sugar is not vegan as the sugar is processed through cow bone char in order to make it white. Brown sugar is just the whitened sugar with molasses added back in – still not vegan
**I do not advocate leaving salt out of most home baked goods – it normally serves a purpose, and excess sodium in our diets usually comes mostly from packaged/refined products, not our salt shakers
***If you don’t like banana, you can replace it with 1/2 c unsweetened applesauce. I recommend the banana – it is not very strong and adds a more subtle, rich flavor to the muffins