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What do you eat?

30 Mar

The following post is written by Willa – a Featured Contributor and vegan lent participant.

It’s hard to believe that we are at the halfway point in our vegan lent challenge. The week before vegan lent started I ate out a lot. To my great fortune, it coincided perfectly with Restaurant Week and my birthday. Not that I ever need them, I found myself with multiple reasons to go out and enjoy tons of amazing food.

I assumed that eating out would come to a screeching halt, but that has not been the case. Many restaurants already have a vegan option on the menu or they are willing to work with “special dietary considerations.” While I have put the latter to test with great success, I am not going to make a habit of it. I will leave the menu design and dish creation to the chefs.

Which restaurants are vegan friendly? More than you would think. While I haven’t personally eaten at all of these restaurants, I’d like to provide a short list that might appeal to all likings: Au Bon Pain, Shish Cafe, Chipotle, Pizza Luce, Triple Rock Social Club, California Pizza Kitchen, Ecopolitan, Everest on Grand, Turtle Bread, Red Stag Supperclub, and French Meadow Cafe.

An interesting predicament has arisen from my vegan experience. At this point, I don’t miss any particular foods eggs. While I have not found it hard to be vegan, I do not plan on being vegan forever. That said, I feel incredibly defensive when asked, “But, what do you eat?” or told that it is impossible to eat well as a vegan.

Modesty is going out the window. I am defensive because I know a lot about food. It is an obsession of mine, both for the better and worse. I cook great, healthy food. Prepackaged convenience food-like items with 50 ingredients that I can’t pronounce do not make an appearance in my kitchen.

I love to cook. It is not a burden for me. Am I perfect? Absolutely not. But, if you want to talk food and health with me I am well equipped for the discussion.

There are two very important factors that can’t be overlooked: 1) we can afford to eat well and 2) I am cooking for 2 people, not a family of 4 or more. I have the time and monetary luxury of making the food decisions that I do.

So, back to the original question, what do I eat? I seriously considered recording every single morsel of food that I put into my mouth and attaching it as an addendum to the blog. Really? Who wants to read about what I ate for every meal, every day, for forty days? I know I don’t.

Here is an idea of what I typically eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. In case you’re wondering, I am not starving nor deprived. I have not been eating a bunch of weird foods that you can’t find at the regular grocery store. You might agree or disagree with me. I know I am putting myself out there for critique but it is something we can all learn from.

Breakfast

Grape Nuts cereal, soymilk, blueberries or blackberries, chia seed; coffee

Ezekiel or sourdough toast, almond butter, banana; coffee

Oatmeal with banana, soymilk, and peanut butter (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it)

Snack

Handful of cashews and an apple

Cherry Pie Lara Bar and a pear

Peanut butter granola bar and a banana

Soy latte and a banana

Lunch and/or Dinner

Whole wheat penne with kale, garlic, cherry tomatoes, cannelini beans, kalamata olives, crushed red pepper flakes, olive oil

Giant salad with mixed greens, shredded carrots, bell pepper, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, garbanzos, edamame, pepita seeds and vinaigrette

Lentil soup, bread, salad

Stir fry with tofu, carrot, onion, red bell pepper, celery,  and spinach served with basmati or jasmine rice

Black bean chili, rice, salad

Whole wheat noodles with peanut sauce, red bell pepper, onion, carrot, cilantro, and tofu

I try to fill our plates with delicious fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and healthy fats (sounds a little like the Mediterranean diet to me, sans fish of course). Some days I eat more, some days I eat less. I typically eat a lot on Saturdays because that is our long run day. I always eat a lot on long run days because running 10+ miles makes me really hungry.

It’s funny, so many people have cautiously asked, “How’s it going?” I can see the disappointment when I don’t have any vegan horror stories to tell. All in all, I basically eat the same things that I did before vegan lent.  Anticlimactic, I know but it is a good example of how livable a vegetable based diet can be.

Are you willing to tip the seesaw of balance on your plate from primarily meat to primarily vegetables?

What do you think would be the biggest change, or the food that you would miss most?

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vegan for 40

9 Mar

Today is a big day. Today begins the vegan lent challenge.

If you’ve been reading the blog for awhile, you know that I do some type of challenge for lent. Not because I’m a super religious person, but because I think it’s a fun way to try out new things. Last year was sugar-free lent. That was certainly a challenge. It was during last year’s crazy 40 days that Meghan floated the idea of vegan lent for 2011. I loved it. I cannot believe it’s already here!

For the next 40 days, I will not be eating any thing that comes from an animal. No meat, no fish, no eggs, no cheese,no yogurt, no milk, no honey, no fish sauce…you get the idea. I’m applying this challenge to food only. I’m not going to be putting aside my leather boots or looking at every single personal product I own. Food is a big enough challenge.

I recruited some friends to do it with me. Two of them you’ve met, Meghan (it was her idea…duh) and Willa. I also have an east-coast correspondent and male perspective in my buddy Jon.

I’m thrilled that I could persuade all three of them to join me in this challenge. You’ll be hearing from one of us each week on how things are going and what challenges we are facing.

To start, each of us have put together our thoughts, concerns and excitements about this challenge below.

Name: Jen

Current food philosophy:

I believe in good food. Real food. That’s about it. I don’t have a label for myself. I don’t eat a lot of meat and the meat I do eat, I’m picky about. I want to know where it comes from. I am not a fan of processed food and would like to be able to educate people on how easy it is to put together meals that don’t come from boxes. I don’t eat out a lot and when I do, I like to frequent local establishments that are also picky about the quality of their food.

I think what we eat is one of the most important factors in our health and that it is the most powerful tool we have to prevent chronic disease. No joke.

I don’t expect any of the above to change over the next 40 days….well except the part about meat since there obviously won’t be any of that.

Why you are participating in vegan lent?

After going vegetarian for the summer, I was intrigued if I could take it a step further. Meghan’s idea of trying it for lent was brilliant. I can do anything for 40 days.I’m super curious if I will feel a significant change in my energy and weight. I’m also wondering how it will affect my training for the half marathon. I also hope to expand my repertoire of vegan recipes and develop some of my own along the way.

What are you going to miss the most?

Yogurt. I eat it every day and love it so much! I will also miss runny eggs.

What did you eat as your ‘last meal’?

Fat Tuesday has been more like Fat week! I definitely had a case of “oh my god, I must eat this before lent or I’ll surely shrivel up and die”. The actual last meal was on Monday and it was thanks to Willa. It included Mexican pulled pork, black beans, arepas with butter and my addition, the carrot cake. Fat Tuesday I found myself at home with a cold, so none of the food I ate was worth writing about…except the carrot cake for dinner. :)

Is your significant other supportive?

Yes. He calls himself a vegan by association. Translation: he’ll continue to eat whatever I make here at home, but reserves the right to eat a burger when he goes out for lunch.

What are you most nervous about?

I’m more excited than nervous. I found myself wanting vegan lent to hurry up and get here already. I think the biggest challenge is going to be eating out and being in social situations where I’m not in charge of the food. I don’t want to be that gal that always has special food requests, but at the same time, I’m determined to experience this full boar and make it the whole 40 days. So….I might just have to be that gal. Or at least that gal that always has a LaraBar and a bag of almonds in her purse.

Name: Willa

Current food philosophy:

In Michael Pollan’s words, “Eat real food, mostly plants, not too much.” I have a tiered food philosophy that I do my best to adhere to: 1) Eat real food, not “food-like” products; 2) Eat local; and 3) Eat organic.

It may sound cliché but I love good food.  I also love to cook good food.  I was a vegetarian for 10+ years but now I eat meat, poultry, fish, and dairy. I pay attention to what I eat and how it makes me feel. This is so important, especially when training for a big event such as a half marathon.

Why are you participating in vegan lent?

I am always up for a challenge and am thrilled to have been invited to participate.

As a dedicated follower of the No Meat Athlete blog and having recently read the book Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life by Brendan Brazier, I am really curious about the impact that being vegan will have on my training.

On the heels of watching Oprah’s vegan challenge episode, I admit that I am also curious about what impact, if any, eating a vegan diet will have on my weight. I will be eating out far less than I have been lately, so that alone should lead to looser clothes and a heavier wallet.

What are you going to miss the most?

I am going to miss cheese, sushi, and eggs.

What did you eat as your ‘last meal’?

Um, what haven’t I eaten during these last two weeks? Arnoldo and I dined at Travail where we ate a wide array of meat and tons of butter. We polished off Spanish chorizo sautéed with garbanzos and spinach, topped with a hearty drizzle of olive oil. I accompanied Jen to the Cheese monger in St. Paul and purchased an out of this world sandwich with delectable meats and goat cheese. I enjoyed my favorite Oaxaca tamale at La Loma. Sushi made an appearance along with a pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting at my pal’s birthday party. We relished chicken, pork, yucca, fried plantains, and plenty of wine at Brasa for my birthday. And, last but definitely not least, I made Cochinita Pibil (recipe from Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless) and served it with black beans, arepas, avocado, salsa, and cheese. A final homage to two of my favorite cuisines: Mexican and Venezuelan.

Is your significant other supportive?

My husband is always 110% supportive of everything that I do. I am not asking him to be vegan; he can eat anything that his heart desires.

What are you most nervous about?

I am not nervous, per se, but I know that social events and eating out will be challenging in new ways. I don’t plan on eating out very often.  I am wholeheartedly against processed foods and plan on avoiding vegan convenience foods too.

Name: Jon
Current food philosophy:
My yearnings for food typically stem from its necessity as means to survival. If it satisfies hunger and is edible, it is food. The reasons to eat are, therefore, typically void of emotion, determined by logic and prescribed by a basic instinct to consume nutrients through my mouth hole. Food is. As such, labels like “foodie,” “gourmand,” or “impassioned eater” likely will never be placed upon me, but always the inquisitivist, I can explore food as the thing of philosophic discovery and value it as each sense appreciates the object of its purpose. Of food, we know its natural qualities are the product of billions of evolutionary years, the result of natural selection and/or genetic engineering. The physical qualities of food, which systematically or randomly privilege and subvert themselves, guarantee natural or artificial reproduction for human biological and social normalcy. The taste sensations we experience are direct protections against poisonous food and a means to observe, evaluate and give preference to foods more adept in supporting the continuation of our species. Likewise, social convention tends to privilege or subvert foods consistent with social norms; for example, eating dog burgers is rarely customary in Western society but fermented cabbage is perfectly acceptable as a complement to hot dogs. Therefore the context in which food is consumed merits equal value in the assessment of its worthiness in the pool of all that is edible. But, we are bound, as we always are, by language and its limits in order to define our experience with food, which brings its own set of irreconcilable issues. Therefore I’m content to describe food as critics tend to comparatively dissect works of art and creativity — that is in terms of mood, color, contrast and texture. That’s enough philosophy for one paragraph.
Why are you participating in vegan lent?
Aside from Jen’s asking, the occasion affords the opportunity to suffer, a practice I’ve perfected. It also gives me the chance to try some new things, specifically thinking creatively about flavors that cannot be achieved or supported with animal fat. I think mostly about practicing my sauce-making skill since I have none, and it’s something that will be useful long after this exercise in self-denial has concluded. And at present and in general, I’m a bit unexcited by life and expect vegan lent to figuratively and literally spice things up.
What are you going to miss the most?
We do not eat much meat in our household. Because meat production is not particularly good for the environment or balancing the human condition, but because Sunday barbecues are the source of much pleasure, we’ve chosen to confine meat consumption to weekends. It has reduced our meat-production-related impact on the environment by 60 percent. It also means we can more enjoy glistening, fire-charred and smoked animal with narrowed guilt and can be flexible if a sudden craving for bacon overcomes us during the week. For the most part we consider ourselves vegetarian from Monday to Friday but there are some staples for which I now must find substitutes. Items typically OK in a vegetarian diet but pooh-poohed by vegans, my routine favorites are cheese, butter and egg. Until recently, I didn’t realize the extent to which these items pervaded my diet … but it’s only 40 days.
What did you eat as your ‘last meal’?
Since we are traveling and since today I start a diet of dust and crackers, I felt justified in suspending my weekday vegetarianism. On Monday, Henriët’s mom treated us to traditional rustic Dutch fare. Pre-dinner, I slid two greasy kroketten — deep-fried lengths of spiced meat paste — down my throat.
As an entree, I learned a few new Dutch words, which I’ll undoubtedly forget before we get back to H-burg: biefstuk met gebakken ui en champignons (steak with fried onion and messrooms).
Is your significant other supportive?
Henriët is usually supportive of my experimental ventures, provided they don’t cause me harm or impinge upon our relationship. As an indirect participant in this experiment, I suspect she’s averse to some of veganism’s restrictions (the Dutch are an exceptionally lactose tolerant bunch given a dairy-product cultural privilege, and there is usually a firm supply of cheese and yogurt in our refrigerator). As the sometimes recipient of my short-term culinary pursuits, I’m sure she’s equally thrilled to enjoy my successes and roll her eyes at my failures.
What are you most nervous about?
Starving to death is at the top of my list. I’m also suspect of my ability to find vegan cuisine in the Netherlands and on my return flight with AirFrance. But I’ll be back in Harrisburg Sunday and reading ingredients on labels will simplify this endeavor greatly. Lastly, I’m nervous to offend dinner hosts who are inconvenienced by my temporary choice of diet. Let’s hope they understand. I wish I did.

Name: Meghan

I am literally watching “The Best Thing I Ever Ate: Bacon” on Food Network while writing this. Ha!

Current food philosophy:

Vegetarian since 1994.

Why you are participating in vegan lent?

Ever since I became a vegetarian I’ve struggled with not just going whole hog – did I just say that? Gross! Ethically speaking veganism aligns very well with the way I try to live my life yet somehow I just never made the leap.

Jen and I started talking about this over a year ago during sugar free lent and I am excited that the time has come. My body also does this weird thing about once a year… something just goes off that says I should avoid dairy. I’ve never listened and instead said things to my friends like, “yeah, my body is telling me to stop eating dairy and I consider it… then I have an ice cream cone.” So now my body is craving a little vegan time and it’s finally gonna get it. Woot!

What are you going to miss the most?

Huevos Rancheros

I eat eggs like it is my job. I love them like Jen loves yogurt. They are so quick, so easy, so yummy. Huevos rancheros are hands down my favorite brunch selection.

I hear you judging. You are thinking mustard? Seriously Meghan? Trader Joes mustard? You can’t be serious. Oh but I am. I eat it on pert near everything. Have you ever tried this stuff? It is incredible. I would tell you to try it, but that wouldn’t be very vegan of me as it has eggs in it.

mmmmmmm…. BRIE!

Many, many, many a night T-Dogg and I make a meal of this and only this. With a lil olive tapenade, aforementioned mustard and vino. As a matter of fact for years I had no idea that most cheeses aren’t actually vegetarian. True story – rennet=cow stomach. Believe it. Luckily, many places now carry cheese made with vegetable or microbial rennet resulting in this girl gettin’ her cheese on.

And of course, my non-vegan life wouldn’t be complete without a big slice of heaven every once in a while…

Tres Leches!

What did you eat as your ‘last meal’?

Broders Italian. Plain. Simple. Delicious and decidedly not vegan. I am an East Coast girl after all.

Is your significant other supportive?

Like whoa. He rules. If you haven’t met T-dogg, you should. He makes the world a better place just by waking up. I just threw up a little bit in my mouth too. It’s okay.

What are you most nervous about?

Honestly, I am excited. Food is a main focus in my life. If I am not cooking I’m usually thinking about what I want to cook, where my food comes from and what it will do to or for my body. I travel to experience food. I like to see friends and family too I suppose, but the first thing I think about after I book my ticket is where I will eat. Most often, food is the way I experience the culture I am in. The funniest thing is I feel as a vegetarian there are so many options so now I am curious as to how it will feel as a vegan.

I gave up cow dairy two months ago. You here all these people praising the gospel about how much more energy they have and blah, blah, blah. Well kids I must say – for my body it is the truth. My energy levels sky rocketed and my head just felt so much clearer. Side note – I’ve consumed copious amounts of dairy in this last week as my splurge and while I’ve enjoyed every single bite I feel awfully sluggish again.

Cheers to an awesome 40+ days kids… are you doing anything special?

So, what do you think? Are we crazy? Anyone else want to join us? Are you giving up something different?

Day. Night. Day. Night. Day. Night. Day…

3 Mar

At 5:00 a.m. my alarm sounds and I promptly pounce out of bed. I won’t claim that I am always raring to go but I am generally awake and ready to start my day. My snooze button is definitely neglected. I have always preferred to plan ahead and squeak out every moment of sound, continuous sleep.

I love to sleep. I am really good at sleeping. This is no joke; just ask my husband or my parents. I can practically fall asleep on command. Furthermore, I am a sound sleeper. I just prefer to sleep during very specific hours that allow me to maximize my time during the day. It is rare that I want to just lounge around in bed. I want to be up, doing stuff, getting things done.

I admit that winter mornings are tough.  Actually, that might be the understatement of the year. Really, I never look forward to facing sub-zero temperatures and the pitch-black sky in the morning. The early sun rise and warm summer weather make it infinitely easier to get out of bed. Nonetheless, the alarm will be set and I will get up.

One of the main reasons for my early rise is to workout. I love going to the gym in the morning. It is empty. I can park near the door (this is really important in Minnesota in February). Simply put, I get it done.

I always feel like I have so much more time in my day when I workout in the morning. I can run errands after work. I can meet a friend for coffee. I can make a lovely dinner to share with my husband.

Then, I go to bed at 9:00 p.m.

Here lies the dilemma that I debate with myself constantly. If I workout in the morning, it limits what I can do in the evening because I want to go to bed early in order to be prepared for the next day. Not everyone goes to bed at 9:00 p.m. I get that. You might be thinking, “Well, just sleep less.” I have thought of that too and I deplore the idea. Remember, I love to sleep. I feel best when I sleep 8 hours.

If I workout in the evening, well, it limits what I can do in the evening too. It doesn’t leave me with enough time for errands. It is also really hard to workout and then go home to make a balanced dinner. I am a very grumpy hungry person. The likelihood that I will make it to the gym also drops exponentially. There are always a million things that need to be done that somehow seem to take precedence over my workout. Just like everyone else, I am searching for that 25th hour in the day.

I do not like to flip-flop my schedule. I am really an all or nothing kind of girl. This means that I have to decide on a schedule and stick with it.

To a certain extent, we are hardwired for different schedules. I am not a lark but more of an early rising humming-bird. I can adapt to a later schedule if the overall benefit is greater. Determination and preparation are significant factors as well. If I am determined and prepared to workout in the afternoon, I will workout in the afternoon.

Are you a lark, night owl, or a humming-bird? How do you fit everything into your day and what is most likely to go to the wayside?

25 things – Willa

28 Feb

Meet Willa – one of the new contributors to the blog.  I’m so excited that my running buddy is joining the team!

A few details to enhance our acquaintance.

1.       I was born in Marin County California. Although I have not lived there for many years, I still consider myself to be Californian.

2.       My mom packed a lunch for me every day until I graduated from high school. They were extraordinary too, often including inspirational notes for the day. These details do make a difference.

3.       Canning scares me. Or, maybe it is just that I perceive it to be so much work.

4.       I want to inspire others the way that I have been inspired.

5.       I love grocery shopping.

6.       My bookshelves are overflowing with cookbooks covering everything from South American to Vegetarian food. I am admittedly enticed by their lovely photos and delicious words.

7.       It should be no surprise to know that I adore cooking and consider myself to be knowledgeable in the kitchen.

8.       I am in constant search of my “calling” in life. At least I have determined that I love food and cooking.

9.     Frequently, my decision making process is paralyzed by too much information.

10.   While I have a desire for perfection, I am flexible as a result of my own laziness.

11.   I love running and feel very fortunate to be able to run.

12.   My gratitude is endless for the friendships that have grown as a result of running.

13.   I want to run faster.

14.   I am uncertain as to whether or not I want to run farther but might be persuaded to do so.

15.   I am a very proud wife of an amazing Army National Guard soldier.

16.   I make a concerted effort to enjoy every moment and I know that health is central to being able to do this.

17.   My undergraduate degree is in Spanish and Portuguese. I speak Spanish fluently but would love to be even better; my Portuguese is very rusty.

18.   I studied for one semester in Toledo, Spain and wish I would have stayed longer.

19.   The focus of my college thesis was how food, restaurants, and grocery stores are central to the preservation/continuation/introduction of immigrant cultures in the Twin Cities and, moreover, how food is often the first, and key, introduction that people have to a different culture.

20.   I love simple recipes with short ingredient lists.

21.   I am having a difficult time thinking of a type of food that I don’t like.

22.   I once made a winter vegetable stew including what I thought was a parsnip; it was actually horseradish.

23.   I admire chefs and restaurant owners but don’t know that I would want to be one myself.

24.   I absolutely hate it when people add seasoning or sauce to something they have been served before they have even tasted it.

25.   Along similar lines, I don’t understand why people don’t taste their food as they are cooking it.

Missed the other new faces around here?

Meet Meghan

Meet Liza