Challenge yourself, it’s not too late to start!

Are one of those people who love fresh starts and New Year’s resolutions? You may have wanted to kick off the new year with a healthy habit. Veganuary was created specifically for you! With support for the whole month, there has been great success with people taking this pledge.

I started my solo challenge in March 2012 using Colleen Patrick Goudreau’s book “30 Day Challenge” as a guide. Here is how I made my change to a vegan lifestyle almost 4 years ago, and still going strong.

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Locally, your vegetarian organization may be a great resource. NW Veg launched a shorter 22 day challenge on January 9. I’ve been participating as a mentor, and it has actually been a lot of fun. It has given me some renewed enthusiasm for trying recipes, and we have some great speakers and events during the challenge including Grant Butler, Dr. Michael Greger, Howard Lyman and more. Also, I was fortunate to get a very cool person as my mentee. We had a great talk, and I hope we can hit up Next Level Burger together soon with our kids. She’s been vegetarian for years, and ready to see the health benefits of cutting out dairy and eggs.

Grant

If you are reading this mid-January and think you’ve missed the boat. I would try following Oregonian food and entertainment writer, Grant Butler’s example. He chose February since it is the shortest month to try it as an experiment. Almost 6 years later and he is stronger than ever. He shared with 60 of us (vegans and aspiring vegans) his story and his tips. I’ll summarize here:

Grant Butler’s tips for Veg Challenge

1. Don’t focus on the negative. It’s not what you are missing, it is about all that you are adding.

2. Try to keep it simple.

3. Don’t focus on protein. That is always an over-inflated concern, but not a problem in reality.

4. Seek out great recipes. Cooking is great, and also trying vegan restaurants so you don’t have to think about the ingredients.

5. Do the best that you can, it isn’t about perfection.

6. Keep a food diary. (I sketch my food diary to make it fun). You can see what you might need to add to your diet.

7. Get to know your grocery’s produce manager. This is one I did not know, but apparently they have recipes they can give you and tips on cooking new vegetables.

8. B12: Take a supplement, it is the only nutrient you can’t get from plants. Many vegan milks and products are fortified with B12.

9. Keep moving! Get exercise.

Grant ended his inspiring talk by making a personal guarantee. Although losing weight and being more healthy are bonuses that can happen, there are two things that will definitely happen when you change your lifestyle: You will lower your carbon footprint and take yourself out of the mess of the animal food system.

Think about that for a moment. The most devoted meat eater normally is still against animal cruelty or unnecessary torture. There is no way to fix this without voting with our dollars, without reducing demand. Meat and dairy are incredibly resource-intensive. We face issues of drought, deforestation and species extinction- wildlife and sea animals are incredibly affected by our choices of what we put on our plates.

I am so happy that Grant is writing at the Oregonian spreading the best vegan recipes, restaurants and using his wide outreach to show how approachable vegan food can be. He is also a great mentor and resource. Here are a few of his latest favorite recipes and cookbooks.

If you have never tried a vegan diet and want a mentor, let me know. There are resources to help no matter what time of year you decide to give it a shot. You literally have nothing to lose (except possibly weight), you can try it for 3-4 weeks, and there has never been a better time to start.


Jan 10

JAN10


January 9: Birthday weekend

Saturday was a big cooking day. I made vegan Shepherd’s pie and my first attempt at raw cheesecake for my husband’s birthday.

It was also the kick off day of NW Veg’s 22 day veg challenge! I am excited to be a mentor in the program and participate in the many events. Hopefully, it will help me keep the energy and creativity I have been having around trying new recipes too so I can share them! I really enjoyed Grant Butler’s talk. It is always interesting to hear how other people decided to transition their diet. I will write a post about his talk separately, and talk about the challenge.

I’m loving Minimalist Baker’s website: simple, delicious recipes that require 10 ingredients or less, one bowl, or 30 minutes or less to prepare. The author, Dana is based in Portland, Oregon and focuses on vegan and gluten-free recipes. Her Shepherd’s Pie passed my picky eater’s test. It even has onions in it which were not remarked upon. We’ll be making this simple and delicious meal again!

For the dessert, I decided to try her Raw Vegan cheesecakes that come in individual servings as the base. I wanted to try two flavors: lime and chocolate and looked at some of her other raw recipes to find out how to adapt the main recipe. This was incredible, and quite easy. Cashew-based filling, and no tricky ingredients. I had looked at one that needed Cacao (not cocoa), dessicated coconut (?), and groats (?) but rejected it since those aren’t available at our local non-fancy store. It did not pass my picky eater’s test (she didn’t like the walnut/date crust), but that was okay because MORE FOR US! It built up my confidence to try another raw dessert soon.

We bought 40 pounds of honeycrisp apples. We eat several a day, they are so good, expect to see a lot of apple sketches.

My son made his dad’s birthday dinner. They had gone to Food Front Co-op, and bought Gardein’s Sweet and Sour Porkless bites. I have loved all of their plant-based meats. We try to make our meals mostly plant-based, but there is NOTHING wrong with incorporating some veggie meats into your diet. I don’t think this needs to be a controversial issue. No animals harmed. And if you want to try it, I highly recommend these. One of my New Year’s goals is to learn how to take better pictures with my fancy camera. Bear with me, this was a phone pic. Why didn’t I take a picture of the cakes? I guess I’ll need to make them again! They were quite lovely and actually resembled her beautiful photos on her website, you will have to settle for my drawing of them.

Udon

 

JAN9


January 7 & 8, 2016

I’ve been faithfully drawing, except for a gap on January 7 where I think I forgot something I ate. I see a pattern developing over the last two days where I ate the same thing twice in one day. Partly I may have been being a little lazy, but mostly I just really liked what I made enough that I wanted it again. In our house, leftovers don’t stick around. If you don’t eat it within the day, it is usually not going to make it another day. Grand Central Bakery’s Como bread really makes everything so good. We polished a loaf off in two days. Maybe more than you needed to know…

I may talk a little later about the plant-based meat and cheese I used: Beyond Chicken and Follow Your Heart cheese. I also went to a local vegan bakery Back to Eden, that I will have to try out again and add to my list.

JAN7

JAN8


The cow in the room: why we keep ignoring her

The cow takes the place of the “Elephant in the room” an English metaphorical idiom for an obvious truth that is either being ignored or going unaddressed. The idiomatic expression also applies to an obvious problem or risk no one wants to discuss.

I’m not the first to point out that animal agriculture is definitely not highlighted as a major contributor to climate change. The movie Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret does an excellent job of making that point.

There are multiple reasons we don’t hear diet choices as the number one change you can make to help climate change. One of the main ones being that the dairy, beef, egg industries do NOT want us to know the impact because they profit from our ignorance. They influence the government and large environmental organizations. To speak up against them is serious. Ag gag laws specifically target this and try to prevent activists from filming how they actually produce the source of our food!

We allow this to happen because it is easier to just ignore the consequences… ignorance is bliss. Who wants to think about how calves are born and immediately taken away from their mothers so we can use their milk, or how all the male baby chicks are ground up. And those aren’t even the environmental reasons. These factory farms are contaminating our water without commiserate penalties, they are allowed to use natural resources for free or a fraction of the cost. We are destroying everything for the sake of chicken, bacon, hot dogs, and hamburgers.

Besides animal cruelty and environmental impact, even for health reasons people would rather make other other choices than change their diets. Doctors know this, and in many cases will prescribe drugs and surgery instead of trying to have the patient stick to a plant-based diet. Watch Forks over Knives to learn more about how diabetes, heart disease and other issues can be reversed by eating plant-based.

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I’m writing this article today since I finally saw the National Geographic Magazine Climate Change issue (November 2015). I was excited to see what it would say. The first section: How YOU can affect climate change.

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This section highlights building a tiny house to live in. Small icons have other ideas like composting, not driving two days a week or washing clothes in cold water.

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The next page, very small at the bottom. “If meat were dropped from diets globally, the reduction in CO2 emissions would almost equal total U.S. annual emissions.”

So, basically, this enormous environmental change we can make without changing homes is treated as a caption.

Smaller homes is a great idea, but practically speaking, here is a bigger impact each of us can make every day, three times a day that gets very little publicity. It has been gaining awareness, and I really hope to see that continue. On a practical level every restaurant should vegan options, and delicious plant-based cheeses and meats need to become more available and less expensive in grocery stores. The cow in the room isn’t going away.

 


January 6, 2016- so good I ate it twice

I’ve noticed that I am feeling much more comfortable now experimenting with recipes. Yesterday was one of those scraping-the-barrel days, where I used whatever was in the fridge and made substitutions freely. For breakfast I made an “egg” sandwich loosely based on a Benedict recipe. Marinated tofu slices with vinegar, soy sauce and olive oil. With some salt, on a sandwich with a little tofutti cream cheese it tasted divine. In fact, I chose to eat a second one for lunch. The olive bread was a good addition.

For dinner I planned to make a Boboli pizza, but didn’t want to use tomato sauce. Instead I created my own pesto using spinach leaves, garlic, a little lemon, olive oil and walnuts. In the middle of making the pesto, I discovered I only had about 6 nuts. I found some hemp seeds and put those in. I then discovered I had nothing for toppings! I scrounged around and sliced potato very thinly, used some sun-dried jar tomatoes and fried up some beefless strips. It turned out really tasty, almost like a gourmet Pizzacato pizza.

A new smoothie recipe using apple, blueberries and lemon sounded particularly good. It made enough for the whole family, not one person as the recipe indicates. Nice break from the banana/spinach/almond milk smoothies I usually make.

 

JAN6


Jan 5, 2016

Yesterday the kids scored an extra snow day! Two more vacation days for winter break (besides the three we took for Hawaii before that). I didn’t eat much today since with hot yoga I really need an empty stomach. It looks like I forgot to label my lunch- leftover minestrone soup and another slice of delicious Grand Central Bakery multi-grain bread. Green smoothies aren’t that exciting to illustrate so I broke down what goes into it this time. For our Taco Tuesday, I tries a new plant meat- Gardein beef tips. They worked great in the tacos, as would “beef” crumbles.

JAN5


Jan 4, 2016: Snow day!

All schools in Portland were closed on Monday (due to some ice on the roads), for the first day after winter break. My 11-year-old son got up early, cheering and ran to the hill near our house with a sled. My 13-year-old daughter slept until approximately noon, disappointed she couldn’t see her school friends. They have very different personalities.

This was another day I was grateful to work from home! I tried making a new “egg” sandwich using hempfu. Found this in Whole Foods on sale. It resembles tofu, but made out of hemp and came already pre-seasoned with chimichurri.

My son and I liked it, husband really didn’t like it, daughter wouldn’t try it. We probably won’t be buying it again. For lunch I made a hearty vegetable minestrone using all the vegetables I had practically, even some green pepper (not listed). I cook my noodles separately so they don’t absorb too much of the broth. For dinner there were Morningstar griller burgers. I really like these, and they are easy. Once you add lettuce, tomato, relish, mustard, mayo and ketchup as I do, it tastes even better. We try to eat a majority of plant-based rather than processed foods, but the kids really like the veggie meats.

 

JAN4

 


January 3, 2016- Vegan Brunch recipes

Sunday was a special day because I actually planned and made recipes from a vegan cookbook. We invited friends over, and I thought I should make something special. I used Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Vegan Brunch for inspiration. It had a new vegan cinnamon roll recipe, roasted potato variation using curry powder, and the main course was tempeh sausage puffs. We had fruit salad as well. Although it turned out well, I wouldn’t use whole wheat flour again for the cinnamon rolls. I’m still looking for a “go-to” favorite recipe, but it was fun to try these.

JAN3


January 2, 2016

I wrote about Yumm bowls last September, always a hit. There is a theme of eating a lot of chocolate lately. I think I am almost through all the chocolate. Eating the last lollipop as I write this post. Fortunately, cutting out chocolate is not not one of my New Year’s resolutions.

JAN2