Vegan Challenge: Day 2 – Welcome to my Fantasy

So far, eating vegan is not terribly difficult. I am kinda wanting cheese today, but I’ll get over myself. Not eating cheese is not as bad as not drinking coke was when I first started cutting back on it. Speaking of coke, I’ve had 8 this week. Making progress! Not really worried about the speed of things at this point.

This morning I was still to lazy to juice. I promised myself I would do it on Monday (and I will). But today, I had a sugar bar for breakfast. Excuse me. I mean protein bar.

I got hooked on these NuGo mint chocolate chip bars about a month ago. They are vegan, and the wrapper touts that it has 10 grams of protein in it. Guess how many grams of sugar it has? Fourteen. Yep. More sugar than protein. How healthy can that be? After I figured out the sugar to protein ratio in my bar, I made the decision to review “protein” bars at Whole Foods. They have a lot of protein bars at Whole Foods. However, I cannot find one that has more protein than sugar, and yes, I even picked up ones I wasn’t interested in eating just for the sake of looking at the label.

But I do have some of these bars laying around the house, and this morning I had one for breakfast. Then it was off to class!

Class was fine. I am really trying to work on leg breaking posture from the advanced series. I have to stay after class to do it because you have to be super warmed up to get into it. My left side is much farther along than my right (no surprise there). I can get my left toes almost hooked under my ribs. I am thisclose. You ever been so close to something that it’s annoying you can’t do it? That’s me with my left leg in leg breaking.

But, the good news is that I’ve only practiced this about three times in the last week. So If I’m that close right out of the gate then what do I have to complain about? Pretty much nothing.

Later on, things got tough. I realized, as I was eating carrots and hummus, that I did not want to eat carrots and hummus for a snack for the next 30 days. So I sey out to Whole Foods to find a suitable snack. It didn’t work out well. I got grumpy.

First, I got more hummus anyways so I could finish off the carrots I had already bought. I went ahead and picked up more sugar/protein bars just in case. I also found a bar that has more protein than sugar (Think Thin), but the ones I looked at were not vegan. AGH! I did later look at their site and see that the Crunch, Fruit, and Nut versions are vegan.

I then wandered down the snack aisle only to find a bunch of stuff I didn’t want to eat. I am not interested in eating chips. Things that looked relatively interesting were not vegan. I ran into a neighbor who declared she could not go vegan at all for any amount of time. She tried to help me find a vegan snack, and nothing panned out. Then I remembered how much I used to enjoy one of the Kashi cereals. Guess what? Not vegan. Maybe they have products that are vegan, but at this point I was tired of coming up with ideas and discovering they were not vegan. I was tired of reading labels and getting shot down left and right.

At some point an employee offered his assistance and I wailed, “I have no idea what I want!” He noted that would make it hard to help me. He was smart to walk away.

Totally fed up, and desparately wanting chocolate, I bought some vegan chocolate chip cookies from the Whole Foods bakery and called it a day.

But wait – there’s more!

For dinner tonight we had a sweet potato burger with a side salad. Mark made them.

Sweet Potato Burger. Needs cheese.

Sweet Potato Burger. Needs cheese.

When I got my grumpy self home, my response to the burgers was that they smelled delicious. I was very hopeful. They looked very pretty too. As you can see from the picture, I did not use a bun. Buns are pretty just a waste of space in my stomach. Well, the burger was fine, but hardly worth the effort. Mark thought it needed a little something, and he was right. I am convinced this burger could be greatly enhanced by adding some blue cheese crumbles on top OR a lovely homemade blue cheese dressing. Mark suggested goat cheese which I think would also liven up the meal.

We were having cheese fantasies. My fantasies are so boring.

Today’s Vegan Verdict: Needs Cheese

Resource to Get You Going: http://punchfork.com/

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The Major Mistake of Day 35

In retrospect, eating a giant burrito before class was not a good idea. At all. So there. I am saving you the trouble of figuring this out for yourself. Today’s class (#35 in my streak) was a hot and potentially barfy one. It started around 11:30 today when I stumbled into downtown Chapel Hill to find some food. I wandered into the Cosmic Cantina. I’d eaten here once since becoming a vegetarian, and they have decent vegetarian options.

Last time I was there, I orded a mini-vegetarian burrito. It was a little too small, and I spent most of the day hungry. This time I bumped it up to a regular size. I also ordered 2 ounces of cheese dip to dip it in (because I’m fun like that).

The burrito was about the size of my head. Seriously, that thing was huge. And the cheese dip? I know what 2 ounces looks like. This was not 2 ounces. The cheese dip came in 2 and 6 ounces. Someone threw me a 6 ounce. Oh, I did not complain about extra cheese.

I decided that the smart thing to do was eat half the burrito. I thought I should just cut it in half and then wrap the rest up and put it away. That would have been the logical, good choice to make. But no. That was not the choice I made. The burrito was delicious. I ate 3/4th of it. I also ate all the chips they gave me and the entire canister of cheese dip.

Oh my God was I full.

But I figured I had almost five hours to digest it before class, right? What could go wrong here? Nothing, right?

Ha ha. Lesson learned.

So I got to class and set up on the hot side of the room. It was hot in there today too, but that is not a complaint. However, I did feel all that burrito and cheesy goodness sitting in my stomach. It was like dragging a large boulder around with me. It was horrible.

Then we got to savassanah. I drank some water, and it happened. This is the gross part so if you want to stop reading, you can. I offer it up as just one more part of my Bikram Yoga Life. Gotta share the pretty stuff and the gross stuff. That’s how I see it.

Here we go.

I had to burp. No big deal. I kept my mouth closed (I am polite), and burped. Oh wait, that’s not exactly a burp. My lunch is coming up.

This was not a situation where I had time to flee the room. I would have been well within my rights to flee the room under the involuntary ejection clause. The involuntary ejection clause had just gone into full swing on my mat, but I was not right by the door. Lunch was coming back up right then. I had two choices. Oh, this is so gross. I could throw up on my mat OR I could push it back down. I was terrifed to let it all fly out right there on my mat. I also didn’t want to make everyone in the room, and espicially the people around me, have to see it, smell it, and so on. So I went with the second choice and swallowed it. I will not describe to you what that was like. I’ve said enough.

These are the kinds of decisions I find myself facing when eating gigantic burritos and 6 ounces of cheese dip before taking class.

So, two points to make:

(a) for those of you who took class with me at today at the 4:30, now you know why I propped myself up against the wall in the hallway after class and spaced out

(b) for everyone, don’t eat a giant burrito and a lot of cheese dip before you take class no matter how much time you think you have to digest it. It will not pan out.

Now I’m Eating the Fake Bacon

Ok – so let me tell you how I got on the whole fake cheese and, eventually, fake bacon sandwich kick that I have been riding for over a week now. It all started when I was reading the current issue of Chili Pepper magazine. I’ve been a subscriber for years. I love hot sauce. I love chili peppers. It’s a good magazine for me.

But, the majority of the magazine is articles that are not vegetarian friendly and nowhere near vegan. So a little over a week ago I was looking though the recent issue. They have some yummy meat-based dishes in that issue! I was feeling a bit sad about not being able to make them. Now, I had no desire to actually make them. I have lost my taste for meat. However, I missed the idea of being able to make them. Does that make sense? I don’t know.

I found a recipe for a grilled cheese sandwich with cheddar cheese, poblano peppers, and bacon. It looked so delicious, and winter is a great time for grilled cheese sandwiches! I thought of my upcoming vegan challenge and realized I couldn’t eat this dish by a long-shot. In fact, I probably needed to just let my subscription lapse.

That’s when it hit me.

If I loved the idea of this sandwich so much why not make a vegan version of it? And so I have. It took me about 10 days to get completely right (and today I burned my fakin’ bacon), but it’s there. And you know what? It was fun to figure out. So here it is – my vegan version of the grilled cheese sandwich featured in the current issue of Chili Pepper magazine:

Ingredients:

– two slices of vegan bread; your choice. I discovered the sourdough at Whole Foods is vegan, and I’m sticking with it.

– your favorite vegan butter. for now, I am sucking it up and using Earth Balance. I’m getting used to it.

– your favorite vegan cheese. I’m sticking with Follow Your Heart brand (sadly, they do not make a vegan butter)

– a poblano pepper cut into thin strips

– fake bacon! I used Lightlife, and it is fantastic. I can eat it all by itself. It even smelled like bacon when it was cooking. Weird, right?

Make the bacon first. This will take you 2-3 minutes. Follow the directions on the package. I used two strips and found it to be a good amount.

Melt your vegan butter. Toss in a slice of bread, and layer on top of it the cheese, peppers, and bacon. Put the other slice of bread on top and cook away!

That’s it folks. You can obviously modify this a thousand ways. Leave off the bacon. Leave off the peppers. Use a different pepper. I want to use pickled jalapenos next. Put mustard on if you want to.

I had lots of fun thinking through how to take the initial recipe and turn it vegan. I have sense decided not to end my subscription but instead use it inspire future vegetarian or vegan meals. I have also written a letter to the editor encouraging him to include more vegetarian or vegan recipes. I haven’t received a response, but I literally sent it about two days ago.

If you do something like this, I found that it was easiest to do it in pieces. So first I found a vegan cheese I liked, and then everything else started to fall in place. My take on this is that, espicially right now, there is no need to spend a bunch of money on new food items to see if I like them. If I don’t, I have wasted a bunch of money and product. So once the cheese fell into place then I felt like I could expand out. The bacon was the last thing I added, and I did it today.

I feel so much better eating a mostly vegan diet for the last seven-ish days. I’m not on the vegan challenge yet (end of January is when it begins), but I am working on developing a menu. This means more of my meals are mindfully vegan than ever before. It’s challenging, but in a fun and rewarding way.

Day 21: Does Showing Up Count?

This morning I took class 21/39, and it was miserable. There are any number of reasons it could have been miserable. The most obvious is that it’s my 21st class in a row and a miserable class is bound to come along when you take a bunch of classes in a row. But here’s the interesting thing: I’m wondering if my miserable class was linked to what I had for dinner last night. And by that, I mean I am wondering if it could be tied to cheese consumption.

I love cheese, and I usually eat it by the truckload. However, the last time I had any real significant amount of cheese was last Thursday. I had a cheese quesadilla for lunch. Since then, I had virtually no cheese for 4 1/2 days. I had my grilled (vegan) cheese sandwiches for lunch. I had some cheese on Christmas Eve, but it wasn’t hardly anything like I would normally eat. That’s it.

I wasn’t totally dairy free. I was just nearly cheese free during that time.

Well yesterday, for Christmas dinner, Mark made lasagna. It was fantastic. It was also super cheesy.

After eating it I started to not feel good. In fact, I was worried that I was actually physically sick despite the fact that I had not shown any symptoms of being ill. About an hour later, I felt fine. We wondered if it was the eating of the cheese – and so much cheese – that had done me in. I never knew cheese could make me feel bad.

Then class this morning – yuck. I felt fine when it started but quickly went downhill. Everything seemed 1000 times more difficult than usual. I couldn’t get into postures like normal – and not just one or two but pretty much most of them. I couldn’t help but wonder if this was a reaction from all the cheese I had the night before.

Now, up until this point I was normally eating a lot of cheese and not really noticing if it had an effect on my practice or not. Then, I removed about 95% of it from my meals for a four-ish day period. When I suddenly ate an amount that shouldn’t bother me, it did, and in a big way. I told Mark I may avoid the lasagna tonight. It’s nothing personal. It’s really good.

Anyways, who knows what my issue in class was today. It could have been I would have had a rough class no matter what. It could have been the cheese. All I know is I had a vegan breakfast and lunch, and I feel like my body is back on track.

Cheese Won’t be the Issue

So I thought that when we started our 30-day vegan challenged (starting sometime in January), that my biggest issue would be not eating cheese. Thankfully, I am learning that I am not missing cheese as much as I thought I would. The Follow Your Heart vegan cheese I had the other night was good. It was so good on a grilled cheese sandwich that I have had it for lunch the last two days. I am not missing dairy cheese (at the moment), and I’m thankful I found a good vegan alternative. What would winter be without a grilled cheese? Seriously, I could easily replace dairy cheese with the vegan cheese from Follow Your Heart right now in my sandwich. I think the key is that the cheese has to be melted. I am not a big fan of it in the unmelted state.

You know what the issue is going to be? Butter. I love me some butter. Don’t tell me to use Earth Balance because I have, and that stuff is just not good. I don’t even enjoy making a grilled cheese sandwich in it. I tried some Earth Balance in a risotto, and it was gross. There were some other things that conrtibuted to the issues my risotto had (like some vegan cheese that did not work well or taste good), but I could tell that it was missing the flavor provided by the butter. I am a liberal user of butter when I cook so I need to figure this out. Follow Your Heart does not make butter.

Any suggestions?

Tonight we are having a vegan dinner (and I had a vegan breakfast) which is bombay potatoes over jasmine rice. My goal is to start making different vegan dinners here and there to experiment and get a taste for what we do and do not like. Right now, since we’r enot on the challenge, any meal I screw up can be replaced with a pizza. If I screw up dring the challenge I am not sure what our go-to meal will be, but for now, it’s Big Cheese Pizza.

I also purchased Veganomicon and have started identifying things to try. I haven’t made anything from the book yet, but I am looking forward to doing so. Going vegan for 30 days won’t be as difficult as switching over to vegetarian. I’m not saying it’ll be easy, but that initial shift over to vegetarian was a much more difficult and overwhelming one – and I wanted to do it!

So far I’ve got one additional person who wants to join in the challenge with me. You don’t have to be local to do it. We can have our own group here. Maybe it seems like too much. I can understand that. Could you go vegan for one meal, any meal, every day? Could you do a vegan meal once a week? Design your own challenge! Who’s in?

 

I Ate the Vegan Cheese (again)

This going vegan for 30 days thing? It’s real. It’s gonna happen. My biggest concern? Life without cheese. I love cheese. You are looking at someone who used to make her own cheese. I could make a pretty mean manchego (not that hard – seriously).

I have tried vegan cheese here and there. Usually it ends up in the garbage. For the most part, I cannot stand the stuff. It tastes awful. It melts terribly. I do not care what they say about it on the package. It doesn’t taste like cheese or anything I should be eating at all. I have considered that if I want cheese, then I should just eat cheese, and if I’m going to have a vegan meal, then that means no cheese-like substitute. But, for some reason, I refuse to give up until I have tried every brand of fake cheese there is. I think I am hoping that I’lll find Spread in sliced cheese form.

This week, I was reading the latst issue of Chili Pepper Magazine. They had a recipe for grilled cheese sandwiches with poblano peppers (and bacon). I thought it sounded tasty, but I wondered, could I do a vegan version of it? The thing with Chili Pepper Magazine is that most of their recipes are not for vegetarians. I have a subscription, and I have been lamenting how I cannot eat most of what they have. But then I started to wonder, how many of these recipes can I veganize or use to inspire a vegetarian version of something similar?

So off to Whole Foods I went in search of vegan cheese that didn’t suck. I think I found it with Follow Your Heart. They have a list of products, including vegan cheese. I bought the Vegan Gourmet Cheddar Cheese. They claimed it melts well. I thought – we’ll see about that. I also grabbed a pack of sliced cheddar cheese (real cheese) in case the vegan cheese was bad. Gotta be prepared!

Of course I had to experiment in advance. I’m not going to make an entire sandwich and then toss it out. I took a bit of bread, put a bit of the vegan cheddar on it, and popped it in the microwave. Guess what? It melted pretty good. No complaints. Before I ate the melted version, I ate a small bite plain. Mmmmm….not really a fan. I don’t see myself slicing up vegan cheese and eating it straight up as a snack. But the melted version on the bread? Really, really good! I was impressed, and surprised. So I got a slightly bigger piece of bread and did the whole thing over again. Yep. Still good.

The real show of course will be when I actually make the sandwich (stay tuned for a follow-up post). Of course, there are flaws with this sandwich. It’s not totally vegan. The bread is sourdough and likely not vegan. I may grill it using butter instead of Earth Balance (not a fan). This is just a step forward to try out the idea of taking a recipe and making it vegan. I’m new to this. One thing at a time here.

Also, the original recipe calls for bacon. I’m not putting bacon on. My sandwich will have just peppers and vegan cheddar cheese. But maybe this is something to think about for the future. Would something like seitan work here? I don’t know. I’m not a eater of seitan or tempeh. If you have thoughts, chime in.