Intention, Not Perfection

I read an article in Vegetarian Times that quoted a woman saying veganism is about “intention, not perfection.”  I am trying to take this to heart as I recover from a weekend of unhealthy and not-entirely-vegan eating.  While many people would consider my diet this weekend to be fairly healthy, after several weeks of eating an entirely plant-based diet, I felt tired, bloated, and just generally terrible. I guess transitioning to a vegan diet has had more effect than I even realized, and I was already realizing that I was feeling pretty great.  I haven’t had a food coma in ages.  Imagine living life without food coma!  You CAN have a meal and not feel like you’re about to pass out afterwards! It’s a beautiful thing.

A few other thoughts about transitioning to a plant-based diet:

1. I think I would prefer to call my new lifestyle “plant based,” as opposed to always worrying about whether something is totally, truly, 100% always vegan.  I’m doing my best, and that’s good enough for me.

2. Veganism is easier in places like Los Angeles or New York, where people are always on some sort of special diet.  I live in a town known the world over for it’s cheesesteaks, for goodness sakes!!

3. I really hate wasting food, so much so that I have decided to allow myself a transition period to eat some of the things that we still have in our freezer/pantry that contain animal products but can’t be donated.  No food pantry is going to take a partially-used bag of frozen shrimp, or the remains of my can of anchovies, or my 1/4 bottle of Worcester sauce that is getting used up at a snail’s pace.  But they’re still fine and I’m too cheap to throw them out.  So be it.

This weekend, that last part meant that I prepared a roast chicken for my mom’s birthday.  It’s one of her favorites, there’s no way to donate a frozen chicken, and I wanted it out of the house. So for her birthday dinner, we had the roast chicken and vegetables, sautéed broccoli, and mashed potatoes and celery root.  The next day, I felt like crap.  Complete and total crap.

When I mentioned to my husband that I was feeling bad after eating so badly, he was really shocked.  He thought we’d been really healthy–roast chicken, veggies…what’s wrong with that?  That’s when it hit me how much my body, and perspective, have changed over the past few weeks.  Most people share my husband’s view–that was a healthy dinner.  But once you start eating vegan, you really learn what it is for your body to feel healthy.  I haven’t lost all the weight that vegan books promise, and I don’t feel like I walk around glowing in some euphoric, blissed-out state, but I just FEEL better.  I’m not tired, I’m not cranky (well, not as cranky), I have energy, I can think again.  And now I realize the difference between “low-fat” healthy and vegan healthy–your body just works when you eat plants.  When you eat animals, you can be thin, but you’re never really firing on all cylinders.

Our Sunday night dinner of adzuki beans and kabocha squash with glazed daikon radishes (both from The Kind Diet cookbook) set me straight and I’m feeling so much better.  This week, we’re having tofu and bok choy with ramen, vegan mushroom stroganoff, and kabocha soup.  I raise my cup of kukicha tea to our good health!

A review of my visit to the Upper Darby H Mart coming up!

One Badass BLT

Fall is definitely upon us in the Northeast—even the sunny days have a chill to them, the leaves are turning beautiful shades of red and yellow, and the nights are chilly enough for a fire in the fireplace.  I love the fall!

But being vegan in the fall can be a little difficult, I’m finding.  In the summer, all of those light meals made mostly of vegetables are so welcome after a sweltering day, but cooler weather seems to enlarge my stomach and make it hard to fill.  My husband has all protested against “all vegetable” meals so there always has to be some dish that feels like a main course, but he doesn’t like tempeh or seitan and I can only feed my family so many beans before the roof blows off the house 😉  Life with boys!!

The sandwich I made for lunch today definitely solved that problem.  We received a bunch of green tomatoes in our CSA box this week and there doesn’t seem to be much to do with green tomatoes but fry them up. Most recipes seemed to call for eggs, and the vegan recipes I found online seemed like SOOOO much work!  Enter Ian Knauer’s The Farm.  I found his cookbook way discounted at Williams Sonoma a few weeks ago, before I decided to try my hand at vegan again.  He created his recipes after living for a year on his family’s farm in Lancaster County, and given that we belong to the Lancaster Farm Fresh CSA, it seemed like something that would be particularly applicable and it does not disappoint.  His recipes are all veggie-forward, so even though he uses a lot of animal products, you can easily modify them to make them vegan and still totally delish.

Anyway, he had a fried green tomato recipe (in the fall section, no surprise) of just dipping the slices in a mixture of cornmeal, cayenne pepper, S&P.  Fry them up…yum!  Stick them on some baguette with a few slices of tempeh bacon, some romaine lettuce, and some whole grain Dijon mustard, and you have yourself one badass vegan sandwich.

VeganBLT

I envisioned this sandwich saying all sorts of things to the other sandwiches.  Mostly “that’s right, I’m vegan mofo.”  Or, “I can totally kick your ass, you wussy BLT.”

RECIPE for 2 BLGTs (bacon, lettuce, green tomato)

6 slices tempeh bacon

1 large green tomato

1/2 c cornmeal

cayenne pepper

2 pieces Romaine

Dijon mustard

Baguette or sandwich bread of choice

Fry up the tempeh bacon in a little olive oil, just enough to coat the pan.  Set the  bacon aside but leave the oil in the pan.

Slice the green tomato into approximately one inch slices.  Mix the cornmeal; cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper to taste in a shallow dish.  Dip the tomato slices in the cornmeal mixture, making sure each side is well coated with cornmeal.  Add a little olive oil to the pan as needed–just enough to cover the bottom and nicely crisp up the cornmeal, not enough to really fry them.  Cook the tomatoes about 2-3 minutes per side until the crust is nicely browned and the tomato is warmed through.

To assemble the sandwich, divide the tomato slices between the two sandwiches and place on the bottom (trust me, I did the reverse order and it was messy!!).  Then add the tempeh bacon and romaine lettuce.  Top the sandwich with Dijon mustard to taste, you can also add some veggie mayo if you like.  Enjoy!

I entertained the idea of adding capers…maybe next time.

It All Got Started When…

I saw “The Kind Diet” by Alicia Silverstone for sale at the Junior League Thrift Shop in Ardmore.  It was actually on display, otherwise I wouldn’t have seen it at all.  But seeing it there, with Alicia’s beautiful smile, tiny waist, and a big bowl of deliciousness really called to me.  I had no cash and it being a thrift shop and all, I figured a credit card for less than $10 would be pretty lame, so I put it back and went about my day.  But I couldn’t get that book out of my head.

So I guess it really started years ago in high school when I decided to be a vegetarian.  I couldn’t stomach the idea of eating animals, and I hated the way these sweet, gentle animals were being executed, sliced, and wrapped in cellophane and saran wrap so that people could pretend they weren’t really participating in the murder of a cow.

But I really didn’t know anything about being a vegetarian other than just not eating meat, despite my father’s attempts to get me to focus on nutrition (he actually bought me my first vegan cookbook), so instead of eating meat, I ate crap.  Hey, French fries are vegetarian.  So are pasta, Doritos, potato chips, and beer.  I was a totally fat vegetarian.  Between the general weight gain from going off to college and substituting pasta and potatoes for meat, I was a porker.  I can’t remember exactly how long it lasted exactly, but I do remember at some point binging on bacon during my senior year of college, and that being the official end of my vegetarianism.

I went off vegetarianism for a while, but also got my weight in check in the meantime.  I dropped about 20 pounds, ate pretty healthy, and started working out.  I then went out to law school in San Diego, the land of the fit and healthy.  It was then that I started really focusing on eating healthy and working out.  I lost about another 10 pounds and it was then that I first tried being vegan.  It was so hard, and not yet all that trendy, so it lasted a couple of months and I gave up in despair.

So, I focused on healthy eating, gourmet cooking (I’m an awesome home cook), and didn’t really give it much thought until after my second son was born and I started doing some reading/documentary watching that I’d always wanted to do.  And it became undeniable to me that veganism is the way to go.  Knowing it and living it are two different things, how especially when you have a meat-eating family and everyone seems to be telling you you’re crazy.  So after giving it up for the second time, I still just wasn’t feeling right.  And then, there it was…”The Kind Diet,” like destiny telling me to finally go for it.  Or just coincidence that it was on sale for $3, which is about as much as I wouldn’t have been willing to pay.

I bought it, read it, and I’m going for it.  I’m going vegan…as best I can.