Disclaimer: I am not a vegan.
So I've decided to take on #Veganuary2019... 2 Days late.
I would have loved to say that I was pumped, prepped and excited to start Veganuary 2019 after the festive season. But I wasn't ready at all, for any of my resolutions and it's because, and I hope you appreciate my honesty here, I was nursing a two-day-long hangover from drinking too much on New Years Eve. WELL DONE ME! I felt that couldn't have possibly gone vegan cold-turkey (ironic) or infact started any health-oriented goals when I was desperately craving all things meaty, cheesy and lazy!
It was the Evening of the 2nd January. I had just arrived home from work (I know, tragic being back to work on the 2nd) and naturally walked straight into the kitchen, wondering what to eat for dinner. I stood infront of the fridge, staring blankly, mentally swiping in tinder-like-fashion through my cognitive database of recipes, trying to piece together a meal that would satisfy my -normally healthy- appetite... I thought "What about my favourite stir-fry?" It was then, in that very moment where I quite literally gagged at the thought of something healthy, that I realised the extent of damage I had done to my body over the festive fortnight. I wanted to reject all things green, low in fat, sugar or with an alcohol content less than 4%. All I craved was heavy food, junk food, snacks and booze. I couldn't think of the last time I ate a vegetable past Christmas Day. Post epiphany, I decided I wanted to get in a clean bill of health and 'reset' (as opposed too what I would commonly do, which is spend January in denial of all resolutions I had set myself pre-NYE, pushing to start again in February).
In this month-long blog I'm going to document my ongoing learnings, thoughts and feelings (maybe a few recipes and influences) and take you with me on my Veganuary Journey! Stay tuned for rambles!
'My Day 1' on the 3rd January: Lots of Fruit, Veggies and Nuts throughout the day. Tonight for dinner I decided to make a chickpea and spinach curry from scratch! Served with half a plain naan (I mean, I didn't make the naan admittedly, because after work I don't have time but even without making it myself it took me quite a while to find a vegan suitable one. I found out that shop's-own plain naan and quite a lot of world-breads have milk / yoghurt powder in them... If you can find this brand, it's by "Riya's" and after warming in the oven, it come out just like the ones you get at the takeaway.) Here's a little handy Veganuary Tip for any new vegans like me: When doing a food shop, quickly scan the ingredients of pre-packaged or seasoned items (eg. breads, cereal bars, crisps etc.) to find out whether they contain milk powder, yoghurt powder, whey powder or butter- you'd be surprised at the amount that do! Click here for the recipe!
Update 4th January: During my day-to-day office life I genuinely just eat the same thing over and over again... which is why my posts are only really of my dinners. A 'vegan friendly' day-in-the-life-of-me consists of a eat a bowl of Jordan's Strawberry Granola with Light Soya Milk or Almond Milk (whatever I pick up on the weekend) for breakfast. I'm lactose intolerant so to be honest, this is actually really standard for me. Meridian Peanut Butter and a sliced banana on toast is also a very 'standard' breakfast for me. For a snack I'll grab some sort of fruit or a handful of raw almonds or cashews as a snack. If I'm feeling a real treat, i'll jazz it up with some Walkers Sweet Chilli Sun Bites or Sea Salt and Black Pepper Kettle Chips. Lunch would normally consist of leftovers from the night before.
Dinner: So from scrolling through twitter, I learnt that 4th January is #NationalSpaghettiDay in the USA! Baring that in mind, I went home and cooked a recipe that I actually make quite a lot (as much as i'm not vegan, I feel proud in saying that I haven't eaten a real meat bolognese in years). I thought I would share with you my recipe for a delicious savoury vegan bolognese sauce made from scratch.
Update 5th January: Made me a sausage sarnie for breakfast this Saturday morning. A toasted, seedy ciabatta roll drizzled with olive oil, @lindamccartneyfoods sausages, chunky smashed avocado (with lemon, spring onion and crushed chilli flakes), plum tomatoes and a generous handful of rocket. Babes, I think I got this.
Dinner: So I'm normally a bit hit and miss with Tofu. I'm not one for soft tofu at all, stinky tofu is a big no no too... but if it's firm, and if you're a firm tofu fan you'll feel me here, is there anything better than super crispy, super savoury, super glossy tofu? Here is my Asian (and vegan) garlic, ginger and soy crispy tofu with rice and wok fried Choi sum (Chinese spinach). Bloody delish. Also, I have a feeling that i'm not gonna be one of those people who are bad for the vegan stereotype (speaking humorously of course) because it's like i can't stop talking about being vegan at the moment.
Update 6th January: I stayed round my boyfriends house from last night (Saturday) until about maybe 4pm today. We went out for drinks last night and I'm not gonna lie I woke up this morning lightly hungover, urging for something savoury and unhealthy (as you do whilst hungover) but I came to quickly realise that his family house isn't very vegan friendly (I didn't expect it to be knowing I didn't tell them I was partaking in Veganuary. I should've been more prepared as I more-than already know that his family are avid meat and cheese eaters).
To conjure up some sustenance was difficult. Luckily I found peanut butter, I just slathered it on some toast which kept me going. When I got home in the evening, my mum made a really cute roast dinner for me (well, she made a roast dinner for everyone but I just found it adorable and also very thoughtful that she was keeping me involved, and it goes to show she's learning too.) She didn't make a nut roast or anything too complicated, just cooked up some Linda McCartney sausages, roasted potatoes, a mix of roasted and boiled veggies and paxo stuffing balls.
At the table, I forgot that Yorkshire pudding's were not commonly vegan and I felt real heartbreak as I sadly had to returned my pud back to the serving platter.
Update 7th January: I fucked up today. By that I mean, I didn't give in but I was extremely tempted to because my dinner was a complete and utter shamble. I attempted to make a Tofu Thai Green Curry using a Tesco's Thai Green Curry Meal kit. Normally I would make this from scratch but having done a food shop after work, I wanted something super quick and easy. This was the only vegan sauce / kit I could find, as all of the other kits contained fish paste / sauce... Yes, I looked on the back of the packet of each and every one available.
But yeah anyway, I ruined it... I didn't cook the Tofu how I liked it. I love my firm tofu crispy and well marinated. I completely rushed through marinating it so it didn't take on enough flavour and because I didn't leave it over night- when I fried it, it just went soggy and resembled some sort of tasteless cheese. The curry kit itself was surprisingly good quality but I did have to make a few additions, like seasoning, a bit of light soy, a spoonful of bouillon and some chilli flakes to give it more of a kick. I enjoyed everything else and struggled through the tofu anyway but it's a shame I rushed it because that was the part I was really looking forward to. Mama didn't raise a food waster.
Update 10th January: I've been eating simple meals recently, since my slip up the with Tofu on Monday evening. I felt like I lost a little bit of creativity with my meals. I've been eating the same style of dish for 3 days. The "'not-meat' and two veg" meal. I'm very surprised that I've been sticking to keeping vegan this whole time as it's been 9 days in total and now, it's genuinely just something I don't necessarily think about now. I never thought I'd say this but honestly, it's as if i'm not even tempted by real meat / dairy products anymore.
Update 11th January: Stemming from this relaxed lifestyle I've had for like 3 days straight, I've made ANOTHER slip up but not much of a kitchen mistake, more that of a content creation mistake. (For those who know me pretty well, Quelle surprise!)
"If you fail to prepare, you're preparing to fail" - Benjamin Franklin
Last night, I felt a spontaneous creative flow again. I experimented with Violife Vegan Cheese and I made a really delicious Butternut squash baked mac and cheese, with the intention of writing my recipe. BUT did that happen? ...Pfft, of course it didn't! Once it was cooked, in my hungry trance I scooped it into a bowl and just shovelled it into my face with a spoon. It was only whilst eating the leftovers for lunch today, that I realised, in my complete carelessness, it was as if it never existed and I have nothing to write about for ANOTHER day in a row. I guess it's not the end of the world (as starting blogger's make these mistakes) but I do need to find more vegan based content to write and post and soon. (Take a moment to refer back to that Ben Frank quote again)
Update 12th January: Christos and I wanted a takeaway. This caused a little bit of a problem for us because in our local area, it's quite hard to determine whether certain places and certain meals are definitely vegan friendly. By that I mean before ordering we'd have to ask the following questions "Are certain foods fried in the same oil?" or "Do you use ghee / eggs / butter / milk in your dishes". It kind of brought to reality the struggles vegans have whilst dining out. Also it took us a while to think of a takeaway that had an option other than a 'Veggie Bean Burger' (Which even then, some of them aren't even vegan). I remembered that Wagamama's had a Completely Vegan Menu and we ordered as we have one local. I was really feeling more of a curry vibe, so I got the Yasai Katsu Curry. I could've done with my usual Chilli Squid.
Update 13th January:
Today I made my own roast dinner (I'm brought up on Sunday tradition). This is the second weekend using Linda sausages as part of a roast, but this time I used the rosemary ones. I know they look pretty dark (and being grossly graphic, quite feacal) but its because, with red onion, they go a lot darker than the normal ones in the oven. I really wanted to try Linda's 'Beef Roast' in a red wine glaze BUT I couldn't seem to find it anywhere (This keeps happening with products that I really want to try and it's starting to drive me mad because I know if others weren't doing Veganuary, they would be available.) Anyway, to make up for it (and the fact I couldn't eat any Yorkshire puddings), I just made extra stuffing because why the hell not?!
Update 14th January: A little reflection as I've done a total of 12 Days Vegan...
So the first time I "tried" to go Vegan was 3 maybe 4 years ago. I lasted about 2 weeks and it was such a different experience. I felt tired, pale, moody and was craving meat all the time. Doctors told me to stop because I was heavily lacking in B12 and supplements weren't helping. This time round it's been an absolute breeze, no supplements needed, I feel pretty great. I feel energised and I'm surprised how much meat replacement products have improved and how much more accessible they are nowadays. I do need to spare some evenings to experiment with beans and legumes. It's as if i'm starting to develop a bit of a dependence on meat-alternatives alone for protein and I can feel it's just putting a halt to my creativity and growing my vegan palette and trying new things. I'm going to be a little more creative towards the end of this week when I have spare time.
Christos got a kebab tonight and I felt left out so I went to Tescos on my way home and got my very own. I served this like a standard take-away kebab with lettuce, red onion (I can't have it raw-raw, GOD, that's just indigestion waiting to happen, so I just soaked them in kettle water to take out some of the potency), baby plum tomatoes, cucumber and it wouldn't be a kaycalcook's dish without a garnish so I threw some parsley at it and drizzled Sriracha Mayo. It's so strange that for half a bag, it's only 182kcals and 21g of protein - That's more than a rump steak! This is definitely gonna be bought again and again.
Update: 15th January: I WANT A KFC... and I want it so baaaaad I could cry. (Snippet from 16th January- I did genuinely cry over this. I had a toddler-style tantrum and put myself to bed without any dinner.)
Update 16th January: Stemming from my very brief update and breakdown yesterday, I decided to experiment and make my own KFC, using things I could find in the supermarket. I remembered watching a video by Tasty of them making 'Buffalo Cauliflower'. And I thought, why don't we jazz this up and make... Cauliflower KFC.
And it totally worked! Click here to have a read of my 'Vegan KF"C"' Recipe.
Update 20th January:
This is what happens when I do a food shop before I make breakfast. I get fully stocked up and ready to make a big gyal brunch. Who says a Vegetarian / Vegan can't have a decent fry up? And that they can't get decent protein?! There's 26g of protein on this plate! And then in the evening, me and My mum had Filipino food. She made me my own Pinakbet. Pinakbet which is a Filipino dish of stewed vegetables with bitter gourd which gives it a savoury but also tangy kick. Commonly it would contain lardons of belly pork and be cooked in a meat stock.
Update 22nd January: I was experimenting with sea-food substitutes and tried this product called 'Sophies Vegan Shrimp' which I added to my noodles. They look quite prawny (could do with more of a curl to them) I feel like the taste was similar to that of a prawn but the texture was so wrong. It was comparable to what I imagine biting into a raw slug would be like. I feel this way about mushrooms. If you like mushrooms, you may enjoy this but I my personal opinion I think that some of these replacements are developed both by and for those who have been vegan for an awfully long time and have forgotten certain tastes and textures. Although this looked pretty good, they were picked out and put in the compost bin.
Update 23rd January: The end is nigh... I can feel it. 8 Days of veganism to go!
I forgot my lunch and our local shops consist of a Greggs (which had no vegan sausage rolls. Like everywhere, they were sold out), a Costa that stocks no vegan options (because it sucks!), and Subway. So I had no choice but to waste £3 on a salad sandwich from Subway. I WAS NOT HAPPY ABOUT IT. Finding my silver linings, I found out that today is #NationalPieDay! Because I'm working and I have an appointment at 7pm tonight, I don't really have time to make a shortcrust pastry from scratch (as much as I'd absolutely love to) but instead of a pastry-pie, i'm going the potato-topped route! Tonight, I'm gonna make a classic shepherds pie.
With it getting cold, bitter and icey outside, I think it's the perfect comfort dish for tonight! I love a good lentil sheperd's pie but with being quite stuck for time and having not pre-soaked any lentils, I need a quick fix so I'm going to use Soya Mince. This is the one of few "Vegan" habits I've long lived-by before doing Veganuary as I consciously swapped from Beef mince to Soya mince about 4-5 years ago and kept at it since. I keep this in my freezer at all times for quick mid-week dinners like ya' bog-standard bolognese, chilli or shepherds pie, especially if I don't have enough boiling time for pulses or legumes which to be honest- I prefer. Of all ways to go meat-free, even if it is for one meal a week, this was by far the easiest swap to make as it's SO convenient, quick to cook and takes on the flavour of whatever you cook it with.
Update 24th January: Another Emotional Day. I've got one week to go and I'm not gonna lie- I'm now feeling the struggle after a total of 3 weeks. Admittedly, it is my fault as I've gone 2 days without a decent enough amount of protein and consumed a lot of fibre (this is something that medically, I shouldn't be doing anyway- UC.) Why is this happening / Why have I stopped with the protein? Because, and I'm keeping it simple here... I was careless with my food shop, I bought novelty products that ended up in the bin and more novelty products that contained little protein, I also thought I had my usual meat-replacement products at home when I didn't (I had 2 sausages)... Adding to the struggle, there are only so many portions of beans, veggies and wholegrain carbs I can eat before my stomach just 'rejects them'. My body is currently in detox-mode and it's ever so draining... in more ways than one (TMI?).
I didn't really enjoy my dinner, I ate Uptons BBQ Pulled Jackfruit in a bun and it was sickly sweet, I mean tasted pretty good at first but it went from tasty to sickly in a total of 3 bites. Again, no protein. I feel like it's so easy to get protein whilst not being a vegan and I'm not saying in a way as if "Vegan Protein" is difficult but to put it in perspective, it is a really tricky lifestyle change when you spend your life eating meat or fish or dairy. I held a pescaterian / flexitarian diet for 3-4 years and I never struggled like this.
Although I don't eat much meat, I know it's there for when I do 'need' it. Your cravings are important because they can tell you that something's not right. My mum used to tell me, craving savoury foods while feeling fatigued, can tell you that you're low on it's salt, iron or protein and craving sweet foods shows you that you're craving energy, healthy sugars (carbs) and fats. This has no scientific sources or evidence, except some very traditional knowledge passed down through generations from the elders.) I know could go on supplements or vegan protein shakes but I don't see much point knowing I'll be back at my normal flexiterian diet in 7 days. Fingers crossed that sorts itself out.
25th January Update:
It's burns night! A Scottish celebration which ode's to the famous Scottish poet Robert Burn. Being completely honest, I'm not gonna act like I know what it's all about as it's not part of my heritage but I love a cultural celebration so with it in mind, Tonight I've made myself Veggie Haggis (-Not home made because that would take bloody forever. However although it's shop bought, it's vegan!), Neeps (Swede and Carrot Mash) and Tatties (Mashed Potato) with a very cheeky whiskey gravy. Bloodae Tidy Scran.
26th January Update: Today was a such a better day. I made myself a mexican-style vegan burrito bowl brunch. This "rainbowl" definitely brightened up this incredibly grey morning! It consisted of refried beans with chilli, red pepper and garlic fried rice, a refreshing raw tomato and corn salsa, diced avocado and... I threw some coriander at it. In the evening I made myself an easy dinner of my fave (Lindaaaaa) "meat"balls and whole wheat spaghetti before hitting the pub and going out with my friends for drinks! On a night out I don't neccessarily need to "check myself" because my go-to drink is a bacardi and diet coke and lets have it be known that it's vegan.
28th January Update: Yesterday I was too hungover to eat (sometimes this happens, go hard or go home!) For a late dinner, when I could finally stomach food, I genuinely ate a whole pack of Fry's Soya 'Chicken Style' Nuggets with Ketchup and Hellmans Vegan Mayo.
My final week is NOT going to be very creative unfortunately. I've planned to souly clear through what I've bought as I still have vegan alternatives in the fridge and freezer. Some things I'm considering to still play with as I really enjoyed them throughout my time being Vegan and I'm going to post them later in the week towards the end of Veganuary.
As I'm still feeling rough from a fun weekend with friends, Tonight I've made what I like to call a 'Kids' dinner, with Linda Mccartney Scampi, Oven chips and Peas, Ketchup and Hellmans Vegan Mayo.
30th January Update: MY MOTHER HAS BETRAYED ME. With 2 days left, she bought my FAVE fried chicken after taking a trip into London and I am not happy about it, I came home to find 4 spare pieces just sitting there, uneaten, in the bucket.
I put my head into it and smelt it. I wanted it so bad I could've cried. I stayed strong and ate the other half of my Linda McCartney Meatballs with Wholewheat spaghetti and my sauce recipe.
31st January Update: THIS IS IT! It is my FINAL day being Vegan. Here are my thoughts on how it's been.
Vegans are doing a really awesome thing for the planet by living the way that they do, and from all the documentaries I've watched and people I've spoken to, I really do admire what they're capable of and the knowledge they possess about the food industry. I think it's necessary to exploit meat and dairy industries because industrial farming truly is disgusting. I've learnt that vegans do live a relatively normal lifestyle, like I never felt like I was fulfilling the negative stereotype. Diet-wise, it wasn't all that difficult, it was as if I was sticking to any ol' diet which isn't 'my own' like it was just a little change. I feel like the moments I messed up were from me 'not knowing enough' about it.
From a health point of view, there were ups and downs. Obviously, when changing any diet you should check with your doctor first. I've had some really horrible moments of fatigue, stemming from days where I've lived off just veg and carbs alone. If you're prone to fatigue or tired, I'd recommend anyone considering it to definitely look into B12 or iron supplements because it hits you fast. In contrast to this, when I got my macros right, I did feel noticeably more energised. The quality of my sleep stayed indifferent and waking up in the morning felt the same as any normal day. I noticed myself feel hungrier more quickly but it's probably because meat naturally, does take longer to digest. Therefore leaving you fuller for longer. When it's time to eat (because I do have a routine), it was as if my body couldn't cope with an extra 20-30 minutes waiting. I didn't lose weight being vegan but I did feel a lot lighter in the sense that my digestion has improved and I didn't feel as uncomfortable after 'heavy meals' (E.g. Shepherds Pie, Pasta or a Burger and Fries). My skin HAS noticeably improved and has stayed incredibly clear (I've had some small spots from Alcohol consumption but these have very quickly come and gone, I normally hold breakouts for at least a week). This is a bit of a weird one, but I also feel like I bounce back from a hangover much more quickly too.
I think that because I forced this new lifestyle on my body so sporadically and restricted it from the opposite extreme (as I probably ate several whole farm animals over the Christmas season) my psych wasn't at all ready for the change and made me crave meat more. Because I can't shake off my cravings and I believe that food restriction is the source of eating disorders, tomorrow and this weekend, i'm fulfil my cravings and eat what I've been waiting for.
This sounds hypocritical and a let down given all the positive things I've learnt and stated, right? Well, to clear this up, it may surprise some (to be honest, probably not- too many people know what I'm like) that I've decided that from Monday 4th February on wards, to incorporate a more plant-based diet into my working week, doing 5 days Vegan and giving myself leniency on the weekends to indulge in >good quality< >organic< meat products from >traceable sources< as this is within my capability and we'll just start from there.
Even though I've spent this time waffling on about the Vegan diet (...this is a food blog, after all), I feel I should mention that there has been 'mental switch' thinking outside of food alone. Before doing Veganuary, I was very aware of animal testing on cosmetic and beauty products which has been an industry that I have refused for about 3 years. If you're thinking about going vegan this is something you have to look into also. On top of that there are other topics, eg. clothing (leather, wool, silk etc.), cleaning products and manufacturing techniques that may use animal parts (eg. wine). These are all things that have a real impact on veganism. I feel like knowing where your food comes from is very important, and I encourage you to at least learn about it especially before passing negative judgement. You'd be surprised at what you'll learn about the industry and what you're putting into your body by supporting bad farming practises. I feel like If being vegan isn't for you, there are lots you can do to help turn our earth into a better place, one of them is participating in 'Meat-free Mondays' or cutting down on dairy but just do your research and do what you can. Lets make this planet a better place. Here's to the end of Veganuary! It's been one hell of a ride!