Tuesday, June 15, 2010

New Tricks: Eating Vegan

I'm three hours from the blustery coast, where two coats, a hat, and gloves are de rigeur. I'm in Eugene, inland, staying at my daughter's while she is recouperating.  (BTW Thank you for asking, she is doing great!). It was 80 degrees on Sunday. You would not have recognized me in short sleeves.

I'm cooking for her and her husband: both vegans. Most people in Oregon accept and embrace this way of life without animal products.

When I think of eating vegan, I panic. Literally.  How does one cook without animal products? How does one get flavors one is used to? How does one get all the nutritional balanced meals on the table with such restrictions?

My first thought is always this: I will starve under these conditions.

The truth is, five days into this experiment, I do not miss anything. I am feeling great; I'm not hungry between meals and I'm not missing my burger fix.  My plan had been to run off in the evenings to a drive-in and fill up on animal protein. I have abandoned that thought completely.

So far, our meals have been complete with a variety of food, flavor, texture and eye appeal.  It took a bit of research and thoughtful planning; but, I'm happy to report, everyone is happy.

At lunch, yesterday we had shitaki mushrooms/vegetable soup with pita chips, a garden fresh salad with boiled and marinated edemame, and melon for dessert.

For dinner, couscous salad with broccoli, red onion, cucumber, green onions, parsley and dried cherries, followed by a garden burger with sauteed peppers. Apples for dessert.

I could list the meals we had on previous days. My point is to admit that this experiment is going very well; I'm sleeping well; I feel full of energy.

More importantly, my  daughter is loving that someone is cooking for her.  

On today's menu:

Lunch--leftover shitake soup and chickpea salad.

Dinner-Baked shells, stuffed with tofu, parsley, olive oil, garlic, topped with a marinara sauce and toasted bread crumbs. Avocado and arugula salad.
For dessert, whole wheat walnut muffins made with apple sauce and a product called egg substitute from Red Mills.

To make my job easier, I shopped at Whole Foods, a gourmet specialty shop that caters to localvores and vegetarians.  The place has an entire section of bulk foods, including a product I never knew existed, flaked nutritional yeast, something my daughter swears by. I got lost in the produce section; looked in awe at all the choices of products available to this lifestyle.

The best part of all this? I'm now convinced that this is not a fad; it is a thoughtful lifestyle, where eveything that is ingested is carefully selected for its wholesomeness and nutritional boost.

This old dog needs to shed a few pounds and learn some new tricks.

We are never too old to try something new.


NitWit1 said...

I read this post and the previous post. I try to have a near vegan meal once a week. My husband hates it.

I have some vegan friends. I do think all of us would fare better with less meat protein. You have to be careful with certain b vitamins as inadvertent anemias are possible if the food is not balanced. Most VEGANs know how to do this.

Hilary said...

I do think that a vegan lifestyle is probably a wise choice.. at least vegetarian. Old habits are hard to break though. I'm still in the "thinking about it" phase. You present a convincing endorsement.

Tabor said...

I certainly can cut down on protein. I may never be pure vegetarian, but it is healthy when balanced correctly.

Linda L. Henk said...

I've changed my eating habits since the end of April. Because my husband eats what I cook, his habits changed, too. We're not vegan but we've lowered animal protein significantly. I also feel much better without grains containing gluten. Since the end of March, this gal has lost ten pounds eating whole grains other than wheat, rye, oats and barley plus lots of fruits and veggies. You gave me some good ideas for meals, thanks!

Brian Miller said...

how very cool. it does scare me as well but i would be willing to give it a try...glad to hear your daughter is doing well...

Bonnie said...

My daughter is also vegan after major surgery for lung (bronchial tube tumour) cancer. My husband and I have become vegetarians after reading The China Study and Anti-Cancer, both powerful books.
I have much more energy since the shift to cleaner eating and neither of us have had a cold or the flu since we began this lifestyle one year ago.

It's good to hear from someone is was not convinced, just giving it a 'brief' try and discovering that it is quite doable and enjoyable!

Woman in a Window said...

I laugh as I have a similar mindset to you, meat meat meat. A good old plate of dead animal central to meals. And so this is as I was raised. Although, it does sound beautiful, how you are eating, I laugh to think, mmmmm...flaked nutritional yeast. Ha! But I know, there is a lot of thoughtfulness to this kind of living. I lack the ability to plan, and I am afraid, rather unwilling to change too too much.

It is good to see you embracing newness. May we all be so open.


Woman in a Window said...

(Oh oh, I'm glad your daughter is recuperating. xo)

Ann Best said...

Glad your daughter's doing so well! And I love vegan. I try to do this with my daughter as best I can. Sometimes she complains, like she wants a hot dog or something, but she also admits how good it all tastes. And it does make you feel so good, too. I've written down some of the foods you mention here - and wish we had a Whole Foods store closer to us. It's an hour away going south, and hour and a half going north.

Eva Gallant said...

My husband thinks he has not had a meal unless there's meat in it! I have no desire to go vegan, but I can survive without meat a few meals per week. Not Hubby. Do you think you will continue with this once you return home?

shopgirl said...

This is fantastic! I would love to read more about your scheduled menu.

I would love to cook more with tofu, edamame and soya beans, but I just can't seem to find it here in southern Italy, among other things. Finding variety is very difficult to find.

Any suggestions or thoughts?

Anonymous said...

A vegan diet has to be good for you ..... but it is hard to stick to. My son used to be allergic to dairy and eggs as a baby/toddler (he's still allergic to eggs) so I used to cook a lot of vegan cakes, biscuits and puddings. There are some great substitutes. Good post!

becky at abbeystyle said...

Maybe the old dog will become a new dog on vegan! Admiring your willingness to learn. I haven't had red meat in years but do indulge in fish and poultry.

Marguerite said...

Oh, you are certainly a wonderful mother to do research and prepare Vegan meals for your daughter! So glad that she is recovering well.I am basically a pescatarian, eating mostly seafood and vegetables and fruits. I was a vegetarian for 10 years and that's how I lost all of the weight gain of my pregnancies. It just came off naturally and slowly. It is a very healthy lifestyle and increases energy levels beyond belief!

willow said...

I'm inspired! Everything sounds delicious. Good to hear you're not missing your burger fix. That's what I'd be missing most. (love the pic!!!)

Rob-bear said...

Glad to hear your daughter is doing better; glad that you're such a wonderful mom to take care of her.

I have mixed feelings about vegetarian living, thought I make a point of having at least one meatless meal a day (usually at noon). I'm experimenting with my meals; not sure where this will lead.

Helen said...

Had to check in as my son and I spent a delightful weekend in Eugene! Our first ever. After five years in Bend, it was high time. Vegan sounds intriguing to me ~ very. Wish your daughter well from me and happy cooking!

jinksy said...

I'm not sure my local Tesco supermarket could supply such interesting ingredients...

Jo said...

Omigoodness, you're my hero. I would love to eat vegan. You have convinced me. :-)

lakeviewer said...

Folks, don't overthink this. Frequent farmers' markets and vendors of local foods. Make your meals colorful and varied. You don't need special ingredients, just an awareness that to get your nutritional balance you can't have the same stuff all the time.

Think of earlier times, when we had our own farm products and ate in season. Now, with foods coming from all ove the world at your local super-market you can find a variety of grains with more protein ounce per ounce than your white bread. Start eating whole grains, more vegetables. Choose the best protein available to you, be it fish without mercury, or lamb from your nearby pasture.

If you insist on having the best products in your mouth, you'll feel the difference right away, and you will have supported your local farmers and suppliers who can grow what the locals want. You'll save his farm too. Look up Community Supported Farms on Google for your local supplier.

Good luck to all of us.
This is how Alice Waters started her California fresh movement years ago; this is the way we want to raise our children, understanding what they put in their mouths doesn't grow in the back of McDonald's.

#1Nana said...

You are such good mother! If my daughter were vegan, I wouldn't know where to start. Bagged salad every meal with a side of fries, cooked in vegetable oil, of course. I admire your commitment to trying this lifestyle.

Wander to the Wayside said...

Gosh, all I've done is replace sugar with stevia and promise not to go to Wendy's more than once a week for my jr. cheeseburger and frosty!

Phoenix said...

This is a great post! I think whenever we encounter people who eat differently from us it always stops us in our tracks at first, because food is most often how we bond and connect with others. I love how open you are to change :)

I think I could manage veganism if but for the cheese. I would cry, I think, if I had to give up cheese.

Jingle said...

smart option,
I am thrilled about your lovely daughter.

RNSANE said...

I am sure that I would totally love it, Rosaria, if I could come and join you for dinner! I am sure your daughter must appreciate having you there, cooking such wonderful meals for her and it sounds like it has been a special experience for you as well. Your menus sound wonderful. I am glad she is doing well. I have missed a couple of posts so I will have to go back and catch up.

sheri... said...

you amaze me with your culinary delights! when hubby and i first started eating vegan i was serving baked potatoes with sauteed mushrooms and onions for a lack of knowing what in the world i should cook! your recipes are fascinating and i applaud your efforts to create meals that are fantastic!

Robyn said...

I absolutely love it that you are embracing something new.
I believe that it is good for the spirit and health of us all to keep on learning new ways.
You are an awesome woman Rosaria and I admire you for all your wisdom.... it's keeping your spirit young.

x Robyn

Natalie said...

Well of course, I knew you could do it with such aplomb!

Diana said...

You are making my mouth water, and warming my heart with your sweet love for your daughter. Glad she is healing well!

I used to scoff a bit at some of the more dramatic eating choices, but as a grow older and wiser, I see it as an opportunity to expand my cooking horizons. I'm cooking lunch for a sugar-free dairy-free friend today.

I would love links to any recipes you've found on line and could recommend.

beth said...

good for you with all the vegan cooking/eating/shopping....but, you still might miss meat a little bit....especially if you like to grill :)

we changed what we eat, but oh the meat during the summer is what has taken us down :)

decomondo said...

Your ability to be so open to new experiences is just fantastic!

Janna Qualman said...

Like with many things in life, it would just be so overwhelming to dig in and change. Sounds like you've been given an opportunity to dip your feet in, and gradually become used to it.

Those recipes sound delicious!

Ocean Girl said...

Sounds so delicious and healthy. I love Indian vegetarian food.

Lianne said...

Dinner sounds absolutely delicious. I've always wondered about the lifestyle -- no wool, no honey, nothing animal in nature. Does your daughter live the complete vegan life or just the food portion?

lakeviewer said...

My daughter and her husband turned vegetarian slowly, by eliminating refined products and beef. Then, one thing ran into another. For years, the two of them talked about how well they felt with this lifestyle.

Lately, they have become even stricter, eliminating all milk products. They do eat eggs that friends with chickens give them. They do no trust the quality of commercial products.

I started her with growing some of her own food. This year, she has expanded her garden. So, we have been having home-grown greens and fresh legumes picked just before preparation. It is a treat to eat this way, and it is addictive too.

There are many web=sites and books with great recipes for those of you who want to try things.

Bea Elliott said...

That's wonderful that you are open to giving the vegan diet a try!

I did so in my mid 50's and regret not going that way decades earlier. My husband was a staunch "meat and potatoes" man - But there really are so many new foods and "exotic" flavors to try -He says his old (animal) diet just seems boring now! :)

Oh... And someone mentioned that they'd miss the grill --- Any vegetable can be grilled to be quite tasty! Plus there's no worries about the carcinogens risk in grilling veggies --- They only exist in grilling animal products.

Cody said...

Nice to see someone so open-minded as yourself when too many wouldn't even give it a chance. Becoming vegan is the best thing I've ever done and I wouldn't change it for anything!

That said... why do folks think vegan meals are flavorless? A plethora of herbs, spices, salt, pepper, oil, vinegar-- all vegan! All stuff that people put on meat to make it palatable.

Anyhow, not to rant. I love flavors of all kinds, especially spicy food. I feel that since I've stopped relying on cheese especially, my palate has really opened up and is more sensitive to subtle flavors. I consider myself just as much of a food critic as the most un-vegan people ever and would love to slap Anthony Bourdain for his ridiculous comments on vegans and veganism. You'd think a "chef" would know how to create flavor even without animal products!

Sorry, did I say I was gonna stop ranting? :D

Cody said...

Oh, I also want to add that for anyone who thinks a vegan diet is hard to stick to, that's because you're thinking of it merely as a diet. Veganism is a philosophy which encompasses so much more than diet! Yes, veganism is most certainly very different from what a lot of people are accustomed to, but when you really understand why you're doing what you're doing, it not only becomes easier-- it becomes the only thing you want to do!

Maggie May said...

I am at a loss as to know how to cook for vegans but you say you feel better and don't eat between meals & don't feel hungry so it must be good.
Strange how the weather can change from hot to cold like that.
Maggie X

Nuts in May

potsoc said...

I tried your eggplant terrine minus tofu and added sauteed scallops. The wife and two friends were highly complimentary. Of course I stated my source.

Beth said...

My husband and I are not vegans; however, we are intrigued by this lifestyle. We eat many vegetarian meals - even ones that our teenagers like.

Glad to hear that you are enjoying it! Hope your daughter is doing well.

karen said...

Hi Rosaria. as usual I'm a month behind, and catching up! Interesting to read about your vegan experiences. I think I would really miss cheese, but not the meat.

lakeviewer said...

Hi again,
Yesterday, on Dr. Oz, (a television program with a real doctor who is an expert in heart and lung matters) we had three experts, Dr. Chopra talking about meditation, another person about alternative medicine, and a third to talk about eating healthier. She emphasized all the principles vegans believe in:

1. know the source of your food, where is it raised, how.

2. select the freshest, nutritionally rich elements, the darkest vegetables, the richest in minerals and trace nutrients.

2.go for variety, of color, texture, taste, smell, spiciness.

Most worry about the inhuman treatment of animals, and choose not to eat animals at all. You have to decide this for yourself.

The toughest element in my short experience is providing variety. I had made a list of ingredients I wanted to have at hand for impromptu assembly-this is the way I cook-plus ingredients called for in recipes. By Wednesday, I was running out of ideas. So, for dinner, last night, I opened a frozen vegan meal to serve,called Orange Chicken. I had brown rice I cooked to go with the split pea soup at lunch, I had chick-pea salad for dinner. I wanted something else.

Bad idea. The Thing was awful; I threw it away; I didn't even feed it to the dog.

Today, asian slaw with peanuts and sesame seeds, and a tortilla wrap with avocado, carrot slivers,veggie burger patty and pico de gallo with lots of fresh cilantro.

Tomorrow, I have no clue. I'm running out of ideas. Amy at She Writes sent me an edemame recipe that I tried and loved! Thanks Amy. I am looking for more ethnic variety here. I cook Italian most of the time. I need inspiration from other parts of the world.