Dish Gal's guide to getting the most out of life, one meal at a time...

Dish Gal's Forays Into Veganism...and a recipe for Sweet Potato & Black Bean Quesadillas!

When I tell people that I was vegan for four days, the reaction is completely polarized: Either the person is shocked and impressed ("You ate no meat for four days!?") or laughs at me and gives me that "I knew you couldn't do it" face. Hrmph. Neither is really the reaction I was looking for.

But I'm getting ahead of myself... let's start from the beginning. A few weeks go, I attended one of Dish Mom's dinner parties, which I love as the food is always fabulous. I had been eating pretty healthily leading up to it-and even during it-until I reached this beautiful cake that had caught my eye the second it entered my home. Tall, dark, and very handsome, this chocolate cake was sprinkled with fleur de sel, suggesting that whoever made it knew what they were doing. Sweet and salty? Yes, please!!

Finally, the cake was cut. It was heaven. But when the sugar high wore off, my insides were NOT happy-- my system was definitely not used to that much sugar, eggs, flour, etc. The next day, I definitely had a food hangover. I knew I needed to cleanse. I needed to get back to pure ingredients, and get as far away from baked goods as possible.

And thus goes the story of how a salty chocolate cake led me to choose veganism.

During my brief 4 day experiment with being vegan, I noticed some things. First, lunches, breakfasts, and snacks weren’t that hard—even desserts (Whole Foods has a ton of vegan baked goods). But dinner was another story. I quickly even became sick of quinoa salads (I'd been having a lot of them leading up to the vegan adventure, including this one below for lunch, dinner, and then another dinner...) And when I decided to have a veggie burger for dinner one night, I quickly became frustrated when I realized most contain egg whites—and spent a long time wandering the grocery store aisles, pouring over each ingredient list until finally I found this one-- an Amy’s vegan veggie burger.

One fun grocery store discovery—veggie cheese. I bought the pepper jack flavor, which at only 35 calories a slice, I expected to taste pretty crappy. But I was wrong- this stuff is flavorful! And, as the packaging claims, it really does melt well. Downside though—the ingredients list was filled with unknown, chemical-sounding ingredients. Blech.

I wish I could’ve stuck to the vegan-thing longer, but sadly I have the world’s most sensitive stomach, and it completely rebelled against my brain’s decision to go vegan. I mean, it staged an all-out coup, twisting and turning and generally making me want to lie down in the fetal position. So sadly, after four days, I caved and had an omelette. Sigh.

There were things I realized I could never give up, like white fish like halibut or tilapia. I love my chicken sausages (SO easy and cheap). Egg sandwiches are a Dish Gal favorite. And of course, the occasional cheeseburger. But other changes have stuck-- I've been still enjoying soy milk with my coffee instead of regular milk. I've continued with the tofu lunches. And I love the emphasis on fruits and veggies.

And so I’ve decided to join the “flexitarian” bandwagon—those people that eat mostly vegetarian and the occasional meat product. This article explains the term more, and credits the recession for its increasing momentum and popularity. Besides fiscally making sense, I’d add on for myself the environmental benefits of eating mostly vegetarian. Paul McCartney recently brought some attention to the “Meat Free Mondays” cause, which promotes the idea that if everyone in the world gave up meat for one day we could greatly help the environment. New York Times food writer Mark Bittmann has even gotten some attention for his "Vegan Before 6" strategy, where he lets himself choose anything after 6 p.m., allowing him to reap some of the health benefits of being vegan, while remaining a "foodie."

In the meantime, here’s my favorite recipe that I made up from my vegan days. . . This was SO good, I can’t wait to make it again. I have a feeling my meat-loving friends will enjoy it, too =)

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Quesadillas
Serves 1
2 tortillas
1 medium sweet potato, cubed, into 1” pieces
1 slice Monterey jack veggie cheese (or can be just vegetarian and use real Monterey jack cheese, but that has way more calories if you’re interested)
1/4 cup black beans, rinsed
handful of roughly chopped cilantro
½ lime, juiced
cayenne pepper
olive oil

1. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Toss cubed sweet potatoes with a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Place on a baking sheet and roast for about 25 minutes total, tossing once halfway. Remove and let them cool a bit.
3. Smush them in a bowl, and then season with S&P, lime juice, and a dash of cayenne pepper.
4. Spread this mixture on a tortilla. I used a high fiber, low-cal one with flax seeds. Add black beans and the cilantro. Then add the cheese, and top with the other quesadilla.
5. On a greased (with cooking spray) non-stick skillet, heat to medium-low heat and cook quesadilla, flipping once, about 6 minutes on each side.
6. Enjoy!


Christopher said...

yay! good job! the vegan thing is super hard, almost impossible, especially if you're someone who is new to it and actually can't spend all day reading labels.

a word in support of no meat:
i haven't had any in over a year and a half and it's been one of the best decisions i ever made. really. since then i gave it up, i haven't had nearly any of the cramps and pains that i used to get every single day. i really think my body can't handle meat... in short, it changed my life. and, i still do eggs and fish (my reasoning against any ethical criticism being that i'll eat it if i wouldn't have a problem killing it).

but, anyway, rock it out - i love that you're into quinoa and tofu now - it's crazy how for so long i would have balked at those foods and now they're two of my favorite.

my new favorite thing is dinkel with tofu (marinated in some sesame oil and tamari), green onion, kidney beans, and cayenne.

also do you use wheat germ? oh. my. god. seriously, fresh fruit, skim Quark (which is this middle ground between cream and cottage cheese that we have over here, i don't know the american equivalent), and wheat germ for breakfast - weight loss gold.

what were we thinking with liquid diets?

Dish This! said...

Your comment made me wanna try again! Yes, the reading labels thing drove me crazy. Plus, there are like legit 3 restaurants in Boston that offer vegan options-- I don't see myself going out to dinner ordering a garden salad w/ no dressing like every time! But I love your eggs and fish idea-- I agree, I dont have any ethical problem with eating eggs. Quark sounds snazzy! The big "healthy peeps" trend over here right now is Greek yogurt, flax/oats/granola/whatever, and fruit. I wish I could buy more fruit, but carrying it from the Shaws at the Pru to the North End is 1) super heavy for stuff like cantaloupe and 2) just asking for me to crush strawberries, etc. So I stick with bananas. I'm obsessed with PB & banana right now.

Wow this was a long comment. And yes, I can't even imagine our self-made liquid diet...we know how that ended up ;)

Karen said...

Pureed black beans and sweet potatoes also make an awesome burrito filling, as noted by Molly Katz in one of her cookbooks (I loaned it to a friend and can't for the life of me remember the title...Mosewood low-fat meals, maybe?).

Did you know, there's a decent vegan place in Malden:
It's right across the street from the Oak Grove T stop on the Orange Line. (We are not so far from civilization as one might think - and I can say that, because I used to think it before I moved here).

I am a meat fiend myself, but appreciate good food of any ilk.

Dish This! said...

MMMM burritos... Thanks for the heads up, Karen!

Miles said...

Hey! A mutual friend of ours has turned me onto this blog and I've really enjoyed it thus far!

And as of this post, I really REALLY enjoy it!

I commend you on trying this where many do not try or care.

I talk a lot about this subject on my own blog: Now is not the Rhyme. And recently, I wrote this post: an even worse american.

I may have to consider myself a flexitarian, now. Though, "freegan" probably describes my stance on not purchasing meat more appropriately.

I also have to commend you on mentioning how people can cut down on eating meat. I really loved this post and have linked it to many people I think this would benefit.

Thank you, seriously, very much for doing this. You have my utmost respect.

Dish This! said...

Miles, Thanks for the kind words!! I'm curious who the mutual friend is?!

I think it's a worthy cause (eating less meat) and I'm glad that others like yourself are behind it.

Thanks again!!

Miles said...

Our mutual friend is Tim, over at DD&U! :)