Month Anniversary+Meal Prep+Baking

Hello all,

I am really excited because I’ve been vegan for one month!  Over one month, actually!  I am super proud of myself and have found it easier than I initially thought it’d be mainly due to meal prepping and staying organized with grocery shopping.  It’s actually one of the easiest things I’ve ever done!

That being said, I decided to branch out a bit this weekend and do some vegan baking.  I am an avid baker, and I love making treats for my husband to take to work.  In the past, I’ve perfected macarons, biscotti, pies, tarts, cakes, various cookies, and different types of quick and yeast breads.  One of the reasons I was so worried about going vegan was because I LOVE to bake, and, let’s face it, there are some things that are difficult to veganize, at least in an authentic way.

I decided to first veganize baking I know best and have done the most of–cookies and quick breads.  I planned on making vegan banana muffins this weekend, but I turned the old bananas I was going to use into a smoothie, so I just made some chocolate chip cookies instead.

This cookie recipe is what I used and is SO amazing! I was so pleased with how these cookies turned out, and I really love the subtle coconut flavor.  The extra chocolate chunks added at the end make them a decadent treat.  My husband also enjoyed them, and he is very picky about this whole vegan thing in general.  I hope to make more vegan cookies soon, and I’d love for people to share any solid vegan cookie recipes!

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After making some cookies, I did some major meal planning for the week.  I am honestly not really a sandwich for lunch kind of person, but I was craving them this week, so I decided to make Forks Over Knives recipe for a “no-tuna” salad sandwich. (BTW, FOK has been really integral in helping me go vegan–I love their website and cook books!)  I already had most of the ingredients, so it was a breeze.  It is also super delicious and making for some great packed lunches this week!

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And last but not least, I decided to go back to an old stand by recipe I’ve been making and enjoying for years.  This slow cooker lentil recipe is one of my favorites.  You can substitute Earth Balance for the butter, and it tastes exactly the same.  Although it says it makes four meals, I can get five out of it when serving it with rice as I did here.  It is super filling and delicious even though it only calls for a few ingredients.  I would highly recommend it!

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I would like to do my next blog entry on some major changes I’ve seen in my health in just a month since going vegan, so stay tuned!

 

 

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Vegan Meal Prep Part II

Happy Monday, everyone–I hope you had a great weekend!

I was able to relax most of the weekend, which was great, but I also had some extra meal prep time on Sunday, so I decided to go all out and make some vegan recipes I’d been eyeing.

One strategy I’ve been using in order to stay within my weekly grocery budget is to only buy food that’s on sale (except for produce and essentials, of course).  This week, my favorite grocery store had coupons for tofu, mushrooms, and pasta, so I decided to make some mushroom stroganoff courtesy of From My Bowl, slow cooker tofu tikka masala courtesy of Yup…it’s Vegan!, and since I had about a cup of red lentils left and had a craving for tacos, some lentil taco meat from Delish Knowledge.

The mushroom stroganoff was SUPER easy, and my taste test confirmed it is delicious.  IMG_20180128_094619618.jpgInstead of cashew butter, I added Daiya cream cheese as that’s what I had.  I think one of the best things about this recipe is how cheap it is, and it’s one of those things most people will enjoy despite its simplicity.  I absolutely love comfort food, so I am excited to have this to eat all week.

I absolutely love cooking and eating Indian food, so I was excited to find the tofu tikka masala recipe.  It is super delicious, but it requires a bit more prep work.  IMG_20180128_113533307.jpgI don’t mind that at all as I love cooking, but it might be difficult to make if you are in a pinch for time.  This also requires a few more ingredients, so it might not be the best recipe if you are trying to keep things simple and cheap.  I had a lot of the ingredients on hand already, so this was easy and cheap for me.  I also love using my slow cooker when I can since it’s become 2nd to my Instant Pot.

The lentil taco meat was also a hit, although I will probably add less cumin next time.  I love cumin, but I find I need to err on the side of less is more when using it.  I used it to whip up some amazing tacos tonight.  IMG_20180128_180537646.jpgI didn’t have hard taco shells on hand, and that’s what I was really craving, so I made my own using some corn tortillas.  They came out looking kind of funny, but they were delicious.  I topped them with some Daiya mozzarella shreds, guac, vegan sour cream, lettuce, tomato, and lime.  I forgot we were out of salsa, so that was a bummer, but they were still amazing and just what I wanted!

I am really glad I took the time to meal prep this week.  Although I’ve been vegan almost a month, I think it really helps to be organized and prepared.  It’s also good to find vegan versions of the meals I’m craving so I don’t go astray.  I am also finding it really easy to go vegan throughout the day if I pack enough vegan snacks and don’t feel tempted to grab something that isn’t vegan.  I think now I have vegan basics down, I can focus more on being creative with my recipes. IMG_20180128_103959797.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

Veganizing Breakfast

Hello everyone,

I hope you had a great week and are ready for the weekend!  I know I am–I had a stressful week as my student teacher decided to quit after only a few weeks in.  The resignation came out of nowhere, so I really had to scramble to make sure I was prepped to teach all of my classes each day.  I was upset at first, but now I’m glad to have complete control of my class back as I don’t want someone who isn’t passionate about teaching running my classroom.

I decided to make ahead some breakfasts for the week as I knew my life was going to be crazier than usual. I honestly have a really tough time with breakfast and don’t eat it half of the time.  I get to work around 6:30 or 6:45 a.m., and I’m usually very busy from then on.  I will drink a lot of coffee, but sometimes I can’t make myself eat breakfast even if I bring it.  I also try not to ever eat in front of my students, so if I don’t have time to eat before they arrive, I just forget about it.

I know it’s really important for me to eat breakfast if I want to be on top of my game, so I’m going to try my best to be organized enough to make that happen.

Something I used to do to “treat” myself in the morning was stop by Starbucks once a week and get a fancy specialty latte and their spinach feta wrap.  But I was starting my day with a lot of sugar and sodium (not to mention $10+), so now that I don’t do that, I definitely feel better.

This week I decided to use some steel-cut oats I had forever (and just now expired) to make mason jar oatmeals.  I wanted to customize them each day in order to entice me into eating them since I get bored so easily.  I have a microwave in my classroom, so these were easy to heat up each day.  I came up with so many combinations with items I already had in my pantry and need to use up.  I did (left to right): apple pie (oats, almond milk, cinnamon applesauce, and fresh apples), raisin oatmeal cookie (oats, almond milk, cinnamon agave syrup, raisins, and toasted almonds), peanut butter chocolate banana (oats, almond milk, banana, cacao powder, peanut butter powder, and peanuts), cashew coconut banana (oats, almond milk, banana, cashews, unsweetened almond flakes), and berry delight (oats, almond milk, blueberries, blackberries, and toasted almonds).

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Each one tasted great, but my favorites were the oatmeal cookie and cashew coconut banana.  Since I am almost out of steel-cut oats, I think I will try it with regular oatmeal next week.

And even though I meal prepped pretty well this week, I needed something different tonight, so I made some mashed potato waffles.  I have been craving potatoes lately, so I steamed some russets in my Instant Pot and mashed with sauteed onions and garlic.  I then put in some almond milk, Earth Balance, and Daiya cream cheese and seasoned with a ton of smoked paprika, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. IMG_20180125_183533518.jpg The result was even better than I imagined!It was honestly one of the best things I’ve ever eaten!  I made enough for a few waffles, so I am really looking forward to eating them as leftovers!

 

 

Saving $$$+Vegan Meal Prep

Hello all, I hope you’ve had a great week and are ready to begin a new one!  I am super excited as we had the first real snowstorm of the year last night.  It usually snows quite a bit here, and the lack of snow this year has been concerning, especially for the ski resorts.  I plan on making the most of the beautiful snow by taking my dogs for a romp in the park.

I am going to talk a bit about saving money at the grocery store as a vegan and meal prepping to make the most out of it.  People always ask me “Isn’t going vegan SO expensive??”  It definitely could be, and I can understand that mindset.  Some vegan recipes, especially staples, are daunting because they require so many ingredients most people don’t already have in their pantries.  But there are definitely ways to eat vegan on the cheap.

I think one of the best way to affordably vegan meal prep for the week is to make something really basic and build on it depending on what you like, your grocery budget, and the amount of time you can spend meal prepping.  This week my grocery budget was pretty tight and I didn’t have much time, so I decided to make some pasta for all of my lunches.  Pasta is cheap, but I had a digital coupon for some bowtie pasta, making it even cheaper.  I sauteed some spinach and mushrooms I found on clearance and mixed theIMG_20180121_112037014.jpgm with a jar of marinara (for which I also had a coupon) and topped with some nutritional yeast.  Making five vegan lunches added up to around $6, which is pretty good.  I know some people get sick of pasta, but I really like all of the variations you can make.

I usually don’t meal prep dinners unless I know it will be a busy week, and this week is going to be hectic in the p.m.  Another cheap vegan option that almost everybody likes is stir-fry.  Frozen stir fry vegetables w/noodles were 10 for $1 at the store, and I sauteed them with some tofu marinated in Siracha and soy sauce and made some rice to go along with.  Making four stir-fry meals cost me around $5 or even less as I have a HUGE bag of Jasmine rice I’ve been using for ages.IMG_20180121_134511374 Frozen vegetables are usually on sale or generally really cheap, and I find it’s good to buy a bunch and then store them in the freezer for easy meal prep ingredients.

I think Asian (both east and west) and Mexican/Central American foods really lend themselves to being vegan and affordable.  Beans (especially when you buy them dry) and rice are always cheap as are ingredients for a curry.  You can add or subtract ingredients based on what you have and can afford, and most of them are very nutritional.

When people say going vegan is so expensive, I think they don’t realize most people in the world, especially those living in poverty, eat simple meals without animal products.  Eating a ton of animal protein is such a western thing, and it is definitely ruining our health.  I hope once people figure out how easy it is to go vegan on a strict budget, they will try to make more vegan meals.

If I have more time to meal prep next week, I hope to try some tips on eating vegan and saving money from Sweet Potato Soul!

 

 

 

 

Learning from Mistakes

Whenever my students make mistakes (big like failing my class or small like failing a quiz), I always remind them that failure is a requirement for growth.  They usually don’t understand this concept because they’re teenagers and every little thing is the end of the world, but I think it’s important for them to be able to fail, pick up, and move on every once in a while.

Failure is admittedly also difficult for me because I’m such a perfectionist.  I’ve been working on “failing” and forgiving myself lately.

I felt a lot of failure this weekend when I didn’t stick to my new vegan diet.  I had been so good for about two weeks only to blow it on Saturday and Sunday.

We had a game night at our house on Saturday night, and everyone brought a little something.  My husband was sweet enough to buy me some ($10!!!) vegan cheese from the supermarket, and it was delicious.  He made a regular cheese plate for everyone else, but that isn’t what tempted me and I didn’t touch it.  My friend brought a cream cheese taco dip type thing, and I felt badly about the fact nobody was eating it, so I had some.  I know this isn’t such a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but as I said before, I’m a perfectionist and don’t handle failure very well.

On Sunday, we went snowshoeing for a few hours and then decided to go to a local brewery for food and beer afterward. IMG_20180114_160458_301 I caved there too when I ordered a veggie sandwich with cheese.  I was so hungry from our strenuous activity that I didn’t even stop to think about it.  And it almost felt like, well, I already screwed this up so I might as well go for gold.

But I think the all or nothing mindset is one I’ve always had when trying to go strict vegetarian (or make other big lifestyle changes), and it usually backfires in one way or another.  If I mess up once, it isn’t worth it anymore.  That is obviously a destructive mindset that does little to motivate one to endure adversity.  It can also bring down your self worth, which isn’t great, either.

So, instead of beating myself up about it, I pulled myself up by my bootstraps and started fresh yesterday.  And it wasn’t hard because on the drive home, I passed two livestock trucks carrying pigs, and as I looked over and saw their eyes peering out at me in despair from the darkness, I remembered why I’m doing what I’m doing and why it’s so important.

To keep me from straying, I packed a delicious yet frugal lunch/snacks–cashews (the best!!!), pasta w/marinara, artichokes, and white beans (aka I’m poor right now and can’t spend a ton on groceries), and veggies w/guac.IMG_20180116_171942363

I also had a great dinner of a Dr. Praeger burger topped with So Delicious shreds, frozen mixed veg, and a yummy salad with Sprouts Lemon Tahini dressing.

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Something else really awesome today–I got my copy of The Homemade Vegan Pantry! I am so excited to use it to make staples so I don’t have to buy so many vegan foods in wasteful plastic packaging.  I can’t wait to start experimenting with it.

And although I’m a bit late, I’d like to acknowledge MLK for being someone who inspired me to care so much about animal rights.  I’ve always respect MLK for his stance and activism on human rights, of course, but I’m always impressed at how progressive his stance on animals rights was at the time.  Right now, some quotes of his I’m keeping in mind are: “The time is always right to do what’s right” and “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘what are you doing for others?'”

I am concerned about animal rights not only because I love and care about animals and the environment upon which our meat and dairy addiction is wreaking havoc, I also care about the people who are forced to work in slaughterhouses and are being exploited by a cruel and inhumane system.  These people are often immigrants, paid poorly for soul-crushing and dangerous work, and don’t always have another choice when trying to feed and clothe their families.

I don’t know what it’s like to be in their shoes–I have never been so desperate I’d take any job to support myself.  I’ve never been hungry or jobless.  I have never had to run from a dangerous situation and immerse myself in a culture completely foreign to me.

And I think it’s really easy for animal rights activists to have zero compassion for those who do work in slaughterhouses or on dairy farms, but I think we must acknowledge a corrupt and unequal socioeconomic system before we chastise those who find work there.  If we don’t have compassion and forgiveness for all, we will never make the changes we so wish to see.

I can only imagine a world where there is kindness and equality toward everyone including animals.  So, instead of judging those who contribute to the needless suffering of animals, I will do my best to contribute to the goodness of the world by doing what I can and making small changes that will hopefully impact someone, somewhere.

Packing Vegan Lunches

When I started veganism, I was at home on winter break.  I am a high school teacher, and we had two weeks off for the holiday.  I had time to cook, meal prep, and get creative with recipes.

I went back to work this week and was a bit worried I wouldn’t be able to keep up with my new years vegan goals.  I try to meal prep the best I can, but I am not one of those people who likes to make the same meals to last the whole week.  I like to vary it up a bit, but sometimes that requires time I may not have.

I am lucky in that I get 45 minutes for lunch, a rarity for most teachers.  I also teach in a school near several reasonably priced and quick restaurants.  Many of them have great vegan options including healthy soups and salads, but in order to save money and time, I bring my lunch and plenty of snacks on most days.  I also bring my breakfast as I usually get to work between 6:30 and 7 a.m., and I don’t like to eat before that.

This week I had some leftover vegan pizza with lots of veggies, which was pretty awesome because it made making lunches easy.  I packed some non-dairy yogurt and fruit, homemade granola, nuts, and celery+hummus.  If you can believe it, this isn’t enough food to last me throughout the day before dinner, so I often eat a Larabar, too.  To be fair, I also work out and walk my dogs about three miles a day in addition to all the walking I do at work, so I am also burning calories.

 

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After I ran out of leftover pizza, I switched to a stir-fry with noodles and marinated tofu, and will finish up tomorrow with an everything bagel with marinara and So Delicious shredded mozzarella.  This is kind of a lazy/unhealthy lunch, but it’s good to treat yourself on Fridays.  I also made my favorite breakfast in the Instantpot, mango sticky rice with coconut milk.  I got the recipe from High Carb Hannah, and it is one of my favorites.  I topped it with a bit of coconut sugar.

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I sometimes get a sweet tooth at work, especially in the afternoons.  I’ve been pretty good this week as there isn’t much vegan candy available, so I’ve been drinking the Tazo vanilla bean macaron tea because it reminds me of dessert, and I managed to find some Jolly Ranchers today as well.

Other than that, being vegan has been super easy this week.  I bought myself some delicious Ben and Jerry’s non-dairy Cherry Garcia, and it made my week.  I also made some vegan nachos with sweet potato tortilla chips, corn, beans, tomatoes, and So Delicious cheese.  It was amazing.

 

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First Week as a Vegan

Well, I finished up my first week as a vegan.  It definitely wasn’t as difficult as I thought it’d be, but there were a few challenges.

Some of the things I found easy was making the transition from mostly vegetarian to vegan as I am used to eating non-animal proteins like beans, lentils, and tofu.  My freezer is already full of veggie burgers/paties and Gardein chicken tenders as that’s what I’d normally eat.  Honestly, making meals was not a challenge at all except for the fact I was more conscious of not using dairy cheese/sour cream/butter.  Although I already use lentils in many recipes, I decided to try this Korean lentil recipe, and it was delicious and provided four filling meals.

IMG_20180103_122243922Another thing that was great was trying out new recipes.  I LOVE mac’n’cheese but never make or order it because of how greasy and fatty it is.  It usually sits in my stomach like a ton of bricks.  I decided to make this recipe, and it was AMAZING!  I would highly recommend it.  I honestly enjoyed it just as much as regular mac’n’cheese.  I know it’s not completely healthy, but it has more nutritional value than traditional mac’n’cheese and is cruelty free.IMG_20180104_170953722

 

OK, now here come the issues.  The first problem was trying to find products that are good replacements for some of my dairy favorites.  I LOVE cream cheese on bagels, but the So Delicious brand I bought at my supermarket is not very appetizing to me.  I hope to make my own cashew cream cheese in the future (also to cut down on purchasing products packaged in plastic) as I think it’ll probably taste much better without all the additives and preservatives.

Another thing that I found difficult (and will probably be the hardest part about going vegan) is ordering at restaurants.  We usually don’t eat out much because we love to cook and save money, but my husband really wanted Chipotle on Friday night, so I got a sofritas bowl with rice, beans, fajita vegetables, corn salsa and guac.  Usually I’d get an addition of sour cream and cheese, but I definitely didn’t feel like I was missing much without them.

On Saturday morning I had to take my husband to the ER because he pulled some muscles in his back the day before, and after we hit up the pharmacy, we decided to get breakfast across the street at Egg and I.  We never go here, but after being at the hospital and waiting for prescriptions for a few hours, we decided to try it out.  I was disappointed to find there wasn’t much on the menu I could eat.  I would normally order some kind of vegetarian egg breakfast or pancakes.  I asked about several options that looked appetizing (oat pancakes with berries and steel-cut oatmeal), and both had dairy.  I settled on a fruit bowl, side of greens, and a plain English muffin.  It was filling and tasty, so I was satisfied. IMG_20180106_094053384

There are some really good restaurants in town that offer a great vegan selection, so I am looking forward to frequenting them.  Until I am on the Front Range where there are more vegan options, I will be experimenting in my kitchen making my favorites.  I plan on trying out a mushroom french dip and pulled jackfruit sandwiches next!

Why Vegan?

I’ve never been a big meat eater.  Even though I married someone from Wisconsin (lots of meat & cheese, obviously) who also hunts regularly, even the smell of meat cooking sometimes makes me nauseous.  I have been consuming non-dairy milk for years as real milk grosses me out.  I love veggies and fruits, and I often opt for the vegetarian option.

This coupled with the fact that consuming meat/dairy/eggs fuels an inhumane and unethical industry that is tough on the environment brings me to the conclusion that it’s time to go vegan.

Biggest challenges:

  1. Will need discipline to avoid my favorite: CHEESE
  2. Lack of access to artisan vegan items (ie cheeses, desserts, etc.) due to location, although local grocery stores do offer decent vegan options
  3. Married to a hunter/meat and cheese eater
  4. Lack of access to vegan items at social events/local restaurants
  5. Coming up with a variety of vegan menu ideas

I am excited to see how Veganism impacts my health and life!