Thursday, March 31, 2016

for my daughter

Everyone's child asks to go out to fast food now and then. Way before going vegan myself, I cut my daughter off from fast food restaurants to the bare minimum. I would allow for a trip to McDonalds if her friends were going to be there (the Play Place is pretty popular among kiddos) or if she really, reeeaaally, reeeeeaaallly pretty please with cherry on top wanted to go please mom - and it had been a good 3 months since her last time. Sure, I might have said yes.

Those days are gone though. I simply can't justify it, even for a snowy day play date or "reward" for doing so good on a test. She is in my care and in my opinion, feeding a child fast food is not fulfilling that task.

She and I talked about how I feel about fast food places a month or so ago. We debated some - she's a whip smart 8 1/2 year old and you can't try to fool her, lie to her, or give her half truths - she'll figure it out.

"But it's food, mom, and I'm hungry for it sometimes."

"Ladybug, it's not food, it's something you eat"

"What? (insert burst of laughter) It is too food. How is it not food?"

"Because the ingredients in the products are so far removed from their possibly once natural resources, it's now just something you ingest. And the meat...don't get me started."

"But I like the cheeseburgers so much!"

"I know how they get the meat. Nothing about it is good, clean or healthy. It's cruel and gross."

"Ohhh you know because you watched a video, huh?"

"Well...yeah, I've seen videos. But that's not why! It's not's just stuff you can eat food is eatey things."

We both crack up

"Eatey things, mom? You made that up." (still laughing)

(Also laughing) "Yes, I did make it up, but it doesn't make it any less true."

She gets it. She also calls herself a vegetarian who eats turkey from time to time. LOL That kid hasn't eaten turkey or any other meat for at least 4 months - but she knows last time she had one, she liked the taste of turkey lunchmeat. This kid ...

The kid who will eat blocks of tofu uncooked, and gobble up bushels of broccoli like they'll stop growing tomorrow. My kid who refuses to eat her (once) favorite strawberry yogurt because it contains carmine. My girl who's new favorite taco is garbanzo beans, bell pepper and rice. I love this kid.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

You eat grass now?

Uhh no ...

Before going vegan I was already hooked on food and not always in a good way. It seems like I spent a lot of time thinking about my relationship to food and being stressed out about it because I felt like I had very little control over my appetite. I grew up being a secret eater so, it was no wonder. As an adult I could go a week or two feeling good about my choices because most of the time I would go for vegetarian choices - but as I think a lot of people know, even vegans and vegetarians can have unhealthy eating habits. My sweet tooth for chocolate lead me to indulge my craving on a regular basis, undoing any kind of good choices I had been making. And then, once again, guilt and food remorse would put me back on track, however temporarily.

Going vegan has lead me to a whole new way of seeing how food figures in my life. I've thought for a long time that food should be appreciated and not obsessed over. Now, I think I am finally living it.

But, what do vegans eat anyway? The short answer: everything.  Even the question is dang near the first result on google search LOL

There really isn't a damn thing that can't be made vegan in some way. Many companies have meatless chicken strips, burgers, salami, turkey, even fish sticks. There are substitutes for dairy milk, eggs, sour cream, cream cheese, sliced and block cheeses, yogurts, etc. And then of course you've got legumes, countless fruits and vegetables, seeds, nuts and grains.

Of course going vegan isn't for everyone, but I don't think anyone should count out the idea completely. Meatless Mondays are becoming more popular than ever. Baby steps are nothing to be ashamed of!

What stands out the most to me since switching to a vegan diet is allllllll the food I can eat, as opposed to the foods I can't eat. Leaving meat behind was the easy part. Dodging the slings and arrows of hidden ingredients is a whole other issue. Milk derivatives alone is a list so long I'll give it it's own post! I read every label for any product I already don't know, and if an ingredient looks suspect I google it right there in the store. Digressing aside, the variety of foods, flavors and colors in a vegan diet are limited only by your imagination. Grab a vegan cookbook or two and dive in. Experiment and enjoy.

Another thing I discovered is leftovers! Leftovers are amazing and I really I don't know how I overlooked them for so long! I've found out fast that they often make for a really good meals the next day.

A few of my latest throw-togethers...

Left over garlic rice, mushrooms and sugar snap peas steamed in a bit of veg broth, with Gardein 7-grain Crispy Tenders

Hash browns, pinto beans and edamame cooked in veg stock, sliced Campari tomatoes & avocado. 


If you've come this far... thank you for reading! 
Have a wonderful weekend <3

- J

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

new take on old favorites

I love cheese. Yeah lots of people say that but I really mean it... like really, really mean it. Like hoard slabs of double cream brie to myself and eat the entire thing on apple slices for lunch, love cheese. Like hover over the gourmet cheese section like Carrie Bradshaw shops for shoes, love cheese. Cheese was the last brick in my wall of animal product foods. Once I was able to break thru the cheese standoff inside my head, it felt like a huge purse of bricks was lifted off my shoulder. I felt like I could really do this.

I don't miss cheese nearly as much as I thought I might.

So far I've found some pretty dang good substitutes for cheese - mostly for on my faux-bologna sandwiches. (confession: I liked bologna more than any grown up should) 

Daiya Medium Cheddar Style Block - Firm faux cheese that's easy to slice to shred
Go Veggie Classic Plain Cream Cheese - This should be called "I can't believe it's vegan and not dairy cream cheese"
Follow Your Heart Garden Herb Slices - If I didn't know better I might say it's dairy.

These are hardly all vegan cheeses and not nearly a complete list of the cheeses offered by the companies listed here - these are just my favorites ... so far. Plus I haven't even started to dive into making my own! That will come later ;)

Back to bologna. I know - GROSS. My husband called me out numerous times when I indulged in my favorite Oscar Meyer beef bologna slices. You couldn't pay him to even try a slice! Me on the other hand, there were times I craved it, and have since childhood. 

Enter faux meats!

I've had several fake turkey slices and think they are all just ok...they get the job done, I suppose. But when I saw bologna it was like a light at the end of the tunnel for the part of me that misses deli sandwiches. So far I've found and tried two of them. 

Winner by a huge margin - Yves. Good color, texture and I swear it even smells like real bologna.

I know, I know these aren't "healthy" vegan foods along the same lines of kale, avocado or lentils, but without choices like these I might fall backward into old comfortable habits. Convenience foods like cheeses and deli slices are fast easy options that can make for a good lunch that's not too filling and doesn't pack on the fat calories like their animal based counterparts. Buuuut add some kale, a few avocado slices and a squirt of yellow mustard on sourdough and call it lunch!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Ok, here goes ...

I recently took the dive from vegetarian to vegan, and soon decided after that I'd like to keep a blog about it. This is meant to be a journal or diary of sorts.

After flirting with the idea of drastically changing my diet for about the last two years, I finally realized it's time stop stop effin' around and do the damn thing.

A little background about me -

I'm California grown from the San Francisco Bay Area creeping up on 47. Right now though, I live in Interior Alaska with my husband and our 8yo daughter. My husband's military so we've made a few places around the US our home. Before Alaska we always lived in places where there was never a lack of choices for restaurants with vegan friendly menus, health food stores, or fresh fruits and vegetables.

Now in Alaska, fruits and vegetables aren't fresh unless it's midsummer farmer's market time - except carrots - it seems there's always fresh carrot from Palmer. Thankfully there's one natural grocer co-op store, a health food store, a cafe that has a small vegan menu, and a decent amount of vegan choices at the local Fred Meyer. Natural, produce and alternate food selections are pretty dang pricey up here so it can be really discouraging, but I'm in this for the long haul. It's not even a question for me. I'm done with consuming animal products. In the months leading to going vegan, I started to weed out my health and beauty items that aren't cruelty free. As clothes need to be replaced, the ones that don't make the cut, get replaced with animal free choices.

My journey to becoming vegan happened because of health reasons - the fact that it's also better for animals and the environment is a happy side effect. I've been low thyroid since giving birth to my daughter in 2007, borderline hypertension the last two years and it's having serious affects on my eye sight. And I guess being the ripe age that I am, it seems harder and harder to take weight off and keep it off however hard I kick my own ass in the gym. Good health begins in the kitchen - no matter what you do at the gym, if your diet sucks, you're wasting your time.

Thankfully, I have my husband who was vegan prior to military service. He had gone vegetarian by the time we had met, and in the few months leading up to his basic training he began to eat meat. At that time there wasn't even vegetarian MREs - now at least they have a few choices. Anyway... he loves that I've made the change over and has been a huge help to me as I progress. Also I can tell he really enjoys being the taster for the growing variety of recipes I've been churning out for family dinners. 

So ... if you've read this far, thank you! I hope you like what you read here. I'll be sharing recipes I discover, some reviews as I try new things, cookbooks, podcasts, and what ever else I can think of. 

I hope anyone considering a vegan diet finds support and encouragement here! Please feel free to comment, ask questions or offer advice, too! I appreciate every bit of info I receive.

<3 Jamie