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
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
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.