The story of how a 30-something carnivorous daughter-of-a-trapper ventured into a bold new vegan world.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas with the in-laws...

What a couple of weeks we've had!
Two weeks ago, we hosted Christmas dinner for John's family.  I wasn't thrilled, I admit it.  I didn't object to his family coming down, but I did object to what John bought for dinner:  a ham, whole milk for them to drink and a pound of butter for mashed potatoes.  So, they enjoyed a traditional dinner on our dime, while I savored a heaping plate of roasted root vegetables John made for me.  I also had a salad topped with hummus.  Throughout the meal, John's 10-year old niece kept making comments about my "weird" dinner.  John gave her a bite of hummus, and she spit it out.  She smelled the boys' almond milk and declared it "gross".  I spent the whole meal biting my tongue.  John's dad did have some roasted veggies with me, and he tried the hummus on some pita and said he liked it. 

After dinner, John's grandma weighed the boys, and she was convinced Sam has lost 10 pounds this year.  He has weighed the same 42 pounds forever.  She's got to be remembering wrong, but she doesn't believe me.  She thinks the kids are starving to death.  Somehow, our plant based diet is unhealthier than the way my husband's family eats.  John's sister, a stay-at-home-mom with 4 kids, ages 8 to 1, doesn't cook.  At all.  I'm not exaggerating.  They eat McDonald's for every meal.  Their oven is used for storage.  Their fridge is filled with pop and "juice".  Did you hear me say they eat McDonald's for every meal?  That's the truth.  Her kids are pudgy (I'm trying to be nice here), and they refuse to eat milk that isn't flavored, food that has bones in it, contains vegetables and can't be easily eaten with fingers/dipped into ketchup or ranch dressing.  And it's perfectly acceptable.  This is what I'm up against.      

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A "Whole Foods" field trip

So, yesterday we loaded up the kids and headed to Whole Foods, in search of a seitan product I'd found online (Field Roast; you can read about it here:  I have never had seitan.  Heck, I don't even know how to say it.  However, the hazelnut cranberry roast en croute looked delicious and convinced me I should give this seitan a try.  It's grain based, not made of the controversial soy.  Those of you who know me know I'll try anything once, so off we went!

I found the beautiful roast in the freezer section.  I liked the packaging.  I didn't like the $22 price tag.  No roast for us today.  Since we were there, we navigated the aisles (which my husband deemed "full of douchebags") in exploration. 

We got a 6-pack of Cable Car Brewing Company lager for $5.99.  Hooray!  Then, we picked up Field Roast frankfurters ($5.99 for a 6-pk) and almond milk chocolate pudding ($3.99 for a 6-pk).  Lots of produce rounded out the experience (a family cannot live on 6-pks alone).  I wanted to explore the deli/packaged foods more, but since the store was packed, that will have to wait for another trip. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A borrowed, revised potato soup recipe with review!

I found this recipe for "Easy Potato Soup" here:   The original recipe is as follows: 

Quick and Easy Potato Soup

(printer-friendly version)
Potatoes can be microwaved, boiled, steamed, or even baked beforehand, but microwaving is quickest.
3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, cooked and peeled, if desired
1/2 small onion
1 cup vegetable broth
1/4 teaspoon rosemary
1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon white pepper (using more will make it spicy)
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon raw cashews or 1/2 tbsp. cashew butter (optional)
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 1/2 cups low-fat soymilk or other non-dairy milk

Regular Blender/Stovetop Users: Chop the onion and sauté it until soft in a medium-sized saucepan. Cut the potatoes into cubes and add 2/3 of them to the pan, along with the broth, rosemary, white pepper, and salt. Simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes. Pour into blender along with cashew butter, soymilk, and nutritional yeast. Blend until smooth. Return to pan, add remaining potatoes, and cook, stirring often, over low heat until hot.

Makes 4 servings. Per serving, with cashews: 131 Calories (kcal); 1g Total Fat; (8% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 26g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 306mg Sodium; 2g Fiber. Weight Watchers 2 Points.

Without cashews: Per serving: 119 Calories (kcal); trace Total Fat; (1% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 26g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 305mg Sodium; 2g Fiber. Weight Watchers Core/ 2 Points.

I followed the basic concept.  First, I boiled the potatoes and set them aside.  Then, I sauteed onions and garlic in olive oil in my stock pan with thyme instead of the rosemary suggested above.  When they were soft and delicious, I dumped the potatoes back in and infused them with that yummy flavor.  I added some homemade vegetable stock and let this all simmer about 15 minutes.  Then, I added 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast, 2 tablespoons of cashews (no milk, as it turned out all I had in the fridge was vanilla and chocolate almond milk) and used the blender to turn it all into an incredibly creamy, rich tasting potato soup.  I topped this with homemade salt & pepper croutons I made out of wheat bread. 

John and I loved it.  It needed a little more salt and pepper, IMO (and my husband thought it would be delicious with the addition of corn).  My four-year old said it was "good", though I suspect his favorite part was the croutons.  My two-year old, who is a notoriously picky eater, probably ate one crouton and 1/4 cup of the soup itself.  That's typical, so I would definitely make this soup again.  Give it a try and let me know what you think!  

Monday, December 12, 2011

True Confessions

There's no sugarcoating this.  I've been a bad, bad girl. 
For 6 days, I ate whatever I wanted.  And I wanted gelato.  And smoked turkey.  And cheese.  Lots of cheese.  I had brisket.  I drank a mocha...with whipped cream.  I even smoked cigarettes at work this week.  Pretty much every day I worked.  And you know what?  I felt TERRIBLE.  Part of it was probably pyschological, since I kept all of this from John (~gulp~).  Alot of it was physical. 

I didn't sleep very well.  I felt puffy all over.  My eyes felt irritated.  I woke up each morning feeling congested.  I was short-tempered.  Friday night I asked myself why I was doing this to myself. 

The "why's" were plentiful.  It is easier and more socially acceptable to follow the "normal" western diet.  Questioning recipe ingredients and defending how you're eating can be tiring.  And let's not overlook the most obvious...gelato tastes pretty damn good. 

So, without telling John I'd lapsed, I asked him to help me write a vision for our family, describing what our health and lifestyle looks like and what we're eating (vision writing is huge in the company I work for).  We watched "Food, Inc" and "Forks over Knives" to get us refocused. 

I'm tweaking the language, so while I'll share the actual vision soon, here are the main points.  For us, as a family, we are committed to eating a mostly plant based diet, which means:
  1. drinking/using only nut milk for us and the kids (soy has too much controversy around it for us)
  2. eating meat and/or cheese no more than twice a month (John likes having this little clause, makes him feel more in control)
  3. avoiding processed foods (no faux meat products or soy cheese for us; In his book, "In Defense of Food", Michael Pollen suggests not buying anything with more than 5 ingredients or anything your great grandmother wouldn't readily identify)
What does that leave?  Fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains...  Armed with dozens of recipes from the good ol' internet, we're ready!  I'll share recipes, what we liked and what we didn't, with you as we go.  Hang in there!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Now what?

Last Friday marked the end of our original, 30 day concept. 

Saturday, we entertained friends from out of town.  We decided to "reward" ourselves with a "free day", and I worked with my chef to create a tasting menu as the highlight of weekend. John and I could barely contain ourselves at the thought of tasting BBQ beef, pulled pork, macaroni and cheese, smoked chicken, blackened seafood, cheese flights, mashed potatoes and gravy, grits with cheese, sweet potato fries with spicy mayo, fried chicken and chocolate pudding.  We had bite after bite after buttery, cheesy goodness, and it tasted great.  At first.  It definitely provided a mouth feel we'd been missing.  At first.  By the end of the meal, the food just seemed overwhelming.  My stomach ached.  The happiness I thought these foods would give me didn't come.  Talk about anticlimatic!

When we settled into bed that night, John said to me, "I don't want to go back to eating like that all the time.  For the past month, I've been in control of food.  Eating like we did tonight, food is in control."  Okay, so we've got some issues tied to food.  It might not be like that for you.  But, the right answer for us right now is to continue with veganism.  We immediately went to the store and replentished the cupboards with barley, beans, delicious winter vegetables, spreads like hummus and locally made peanut butter, nut milks and crusty breads.  Can I say, "We're doing this for life!"?  No, but I can happily say, "We're doing this right now!" 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

It's been a month!

Yesterday marked the end of our initial 30-day experiment.  We did it!  No animal product--no milk, no cheese, no butter, no nothing! 

John, who has lost 27 pounds now, said this morning he doesn't know if he feels any different.  Huh?  You lost 27 pounds!!  Maybe I'm more in tune with my body.  I've noticed major differences.  I sleep better.  I feel lighter inside.  I had a completely side-effect free period this month (no bloating, no cramps, no mood swings).  I've lost 10 pounds. 

So, what to do now?  Go back to a carniverous life?  Stay vegan?  Become vegetarians?  Flexitarians?  Pescetarians?  Only time will tell.  Stay tuned!  

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Lead me not into temptation...

Forgive me father.  It has been a long time since my last confession.  Okay, I'm not Catholic, but I feel the need to repent after the carnivorous thoughts I had last night.  I am 2 days shy of hitting the one month mark of veganism.  Honestly, it's been easier than I thought it would be.  I haven't had any cravings or felt I was missing out on anything.  Until last night. 
I work at an awesome restaurant.  We raise the majority of our produce and even our own animals (and next year plan to become the only restaurant in the nation with it's own dedicated slaughterhouse on this same farm).  We use fresh, local, organic produce.  We have an extensive cheese menu (and a creamery that makes our fresh cheeses).  We print our menu twice a day because items change as the chef shops.  We have a dedication vegetarian section on our menu, but we are known for MEAT:  We do whole hog BBQ on our pit every day.  We butcher and grind our burgers daily, made from steak scraps.  Brisket.  BBQ Ribs.  Homemade sausages.  Steaks.  Fresh seafood.  My boss won a 2011 James Beard award.  Oprah Winfrey raves about our BBQ beef.  Food Network called our mac & cheese "the best in the nation".  I gained 15 pounds when I started working here.  There isn't one menu item I don't LOVE.  I've relied on our chefs and our incredible produce and grains to satisfy me since giving up animal products, and it's worked.  Until last night.

I was working as "expo".  This is the person that acts as an intermediate between the kitchen and the servers.  One of the main roles of the expo is to make sure that the plates that the kitchen puts up match the order on the tickets (properly cooked, properly plated, correct sides/substitutions, etc...).  This means getting up close and personal with each dish that comes up into the "window".  The burgers the grill station was turning out looked AMAZING.  Hot, juicy beef.  Beautiful char.  Melty cheese. 

My mouth was literally watering.  I didn't crack, but I sure did think about it!  Once I made it home, the craving was easy to ignore.  My husband has hit the 25 pound weight loss mark, and I've lost over 10 pounds, so we're sticking to our guns and continuing on.  In the meantime, I'm staying off the expo line for a while!