July 30, 2011 § 10 Comments
I love making soups. They are usually super easy to put together and you rarely need to follow a recipe. Soups are perfect too for using the last bits of leftover vegetables in the fridge. I’m not sure why, but I’ve really been on a corn kick latley. I’ve wanted to put it in everything: salads, tacos, everything, and I’ve been thinking of this chowder for a while. This chowder is inspired by a shrimp and corn chowder I make a lot and learned from my mom. I love how silky and rich it is – it’s perfectly comforting – but calls for all sorts of non-vegan ingredients like cream and seafood so I figured I wouldn’t get to have it anytime soon. But, I figured out a way!
Doesn’t that chowder look all creamy and silky? You’re thinking surely there is at least a touch of cream in there – nope, not a drop! What’s the secret to that rich creamy base? Roasted cauliflower! And what’s best about this soup – not only does it not have any cream – but it doesn’t leave you with that heavy feeling a traditional chowder does.
As I said the beauty of this soup and any soup really is that there are no rules. If you don’t have one of these ingredients handy or want to switch it up, go for it. Experiment and see what it gives you. Soups are very forgiving – it’s really hard to mess them up. The key is seasoning. That’s really the only way to mess up a soup.
As I said the secret to this creamy delicious soup is the roasted cauliflower. You could do this the day before to speed up this easy weeknight dinner. Roast with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper at 425 until tender and the cauliflower has a little color.
This chowder starts with the traditional onion, celery, carrot base. Saute the onions until translucent in some olive oil then add the celery and carrots. I happened to have shredded carrots in my fridge which worked great here. Since you end up blending everything together it doesn’t matter. I love adding peppers to all my soups – and really just about anything. Sometimes I’ll do a duo of red and yellow but for this soup I just used a red pepper. If you wanted a little heat you could definitely add some jalapeno but I’d wait until later in the cooking. Then add the diced potatoes, roasted cauliflower, and season with a little salt and pepper.
Next add the stock. To keep it vegan, I used vegetable stock but if you’re not eating vegan you could use chicken stock which will give it great flavor. I actually only had one 32 oz. package of stock which I knew wasn’t enough to cover all the ingredients. I was a little nervous to add another 32 oz. of water but it still had fantastic flavor. I threw in a bay leaf and generous amount of salt and pepper to season.
While the soup simmers, prep the corn. Set the cut corn aside. You simmer the soup just long enough to ensure the potatoes are fully cooked through. Once the potatoes are cooked, the soup is ready for blending. I used an immersion blender which is so easy and takes just minutes to blend this into that beautiful creamy base. If you don’t have an immersion blender you can easily use a regular blender. Now, before blending you want to remove the bay leaf like the pros always caution. But don’t worry, if you don’t, I learned it blends nicely. I forgot to remove it and didn’t even notice.
Once the soup is blended smooth, add the cut corn and let it heat through for a few minutes. Taste test and season with more salt and pepper as needed. I promise you’ll be licking the bowl clean!
Vegan Corn Chowder
Serves about 8 bowls
- 1 head cauliflower
- 3 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 onion
- 4 celery stalks
- 4 carrots (can use shredded as I did)
- 1 red pepper
- 6 small potatoes (red or new)
- 2 32-oz. cartons vegetable stock
- 4 ears corn
- 1 bay leaf
- salt and pepper
- Cut up head of cauliflower into small florets. Coat well with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast at 425 until tender.
- Dice onion, celery, carrots, and red pepper. Heat oil in a large stock pot over medium heat and saute onions until translucent. Add celery and carrots and saute a few minutes, then add the pepper. Season with a little salt and pepper.
- Dice the potatoes and add to the mixture. Add enough stock to cover the vegetables. Add the bay leaf and season generously with salt and pepper.
- While the potatoes cook through, cut and prep the corn. Once the potatoes are cooked through, remove the bay leaf and then blend the soup until smooth. Add the corn to the blended soup. Taste for final seasonings.
July 22, 2011 § 4 Comments
Well this week was the ultimate test to my 30 day vegan challenge. I lucked out and had no travel since starting this so I had pretty good control over my food options. Traveling is whole different story though. No refrigerator stocked full of fruits and veggies, no coconut milk creamer to cut the black coffee, no vegan ice cream to satisfy sweet cravings…but in the end it all worked out well – in fact, it worked out great. I had no shortage of food this week. Granted it all wasn’t super healthy but for being a vegan on the road I fared quite well.
In the mornings I was able to have oatmeal with fruit. The black coffee wasn’t the easiest but it was better than the alternative – falling asleep during my presentations. I brought my team a delicious cake full of yummy frosting and resisted taking even a single bite. They assured me no one would know and tried their hardest to get me to celebrate with them but I held strong.
For lunches I fared well too. I was able to snag some veggie enchiladas without cheese at a really good Mexican joint. I got the Mediterranean Veggie sandwich at Panera without feta which is so good and I get all the time even off this diet. And yesterday surprisingly at the airport no less I managed to eat quite well at Friday’s with a new fruity salad loaded with mango, avocado, and peppers.
Dinners were even more exciting! I was especially nervous about this as I knew I’d be with a group and didn’t want to be a complete pain. But there was no need for worrying as both places had great options.
The first night we went to a little Colombian restaurant. Luckily they had a vegetarian plate full of plantains, yucca, rice, beans, and arepas. Now, this was probably a starch overload but it was good! I didn’t touch the beans as I wasn’t confident they were free of chicken stock so I focused on everything else. The delicious salsas they served on the side made everything exciting.
The last night we went to this awesome little restaurant, Dive Coastal Cuisine. It was soooo good and cute! I definitely will return there after my challenge. But in the mean time there was so much for a vegan to choose I could barely decide. We started with delicious dips – I was able to partake in the white bean hummus and tomoto garlic ones. I had a veggie wrap for my entrée which came with a fabulous pesto that gave it tons of added flavor. And there was an amazing coconut rice that I could barely resist. Given my starch intake in the last few days though I limited it to just a few bites.
So there you have it, success as a traveling vegan. Who knew.
July 17, 2011 § 1 Comment
Ingredient discovery continued this week as I ended the second week of my 30 day vegan challenge. (Update: See how I did with my challenge here.) I ordered from a local organic delivery service for the first time in an attempt to save time and get more organic produce. While I appreciated the ease of ordering and having fresh produce awaiting my arrival at my door, I realized I really am a grocery shopper. I enjoy perusing the lanes and looking for the freshest produce, smelling it, feeling it, and thinking about what I’ll be cooking that week based on what’s there. So, I’m not sure I’ll keep this as a weekly service, but it’s pretty nice during weeks I have to travel to have fresh produce waiting for me at home.
One thing I can tell you – I never would have picked up these two items which arrived at my door with this service: kale and purple sweet potatoes. Both of them appeared unattractive (in my opinion) and well, not so yummy. But boy was I wrong. Both turned out to be winners – not only very attractive, dare I say even beautiful, but delicious and satisfying.
If you’re like me and you’ve never eaten kale, it can be a bit intimidating. The leaves are really rough and almost have the texture of crazy thick curly parsley. Just looking at it you can tell its chock full of vitamins and nutrients but it doesn’t look like it will be delicious. Kale is sometimes compared to spinach but there was nothing tender about these leaves. While I had read that you can eat the stems, that was just being too adventurous for me. I was already going for the leaves, so I left the stems out of the party.
I decided to cook the kale with pasta. I figured that was the best way to ease into it as straight on kale might be a bit much for a first try. I had some grape tomatoes on hand as I usually do and I sauteed it with lots of garlic and some crushed red pepper and capers to give it a kick. Luis was skeptical as I cut the leaves free of their stems and I have to admit I was a bit scared to dump it into my beautiful sauce I had cooking, but boy was it good. The resulting pasta was really delicious and the greens absorbed all the strong flavors of the pan, making the bites of pasta with kale the best tasting ones! This pasta was so easy to make and extremely satisfying. We both went back for seconds and there was barely any left for leftovers…always a good sign.
To make the pasta, slice the garlic, onions, and tomatoes. Fully wash the kale and remove the stems, cutting the leaves into strips. While the water boils, saute the onions in olive oil until tender. Then add the tomatoes for a few minutes and then the capers, red pepper flakes, and garlic.
Once the tomatoes are almost fully soft, add the kale. I let it steam on top of the tomato mixture first before folding in the leaves. They’ll fill the full pan but like spinach they will wilt down quickly.
Keep turning them in the tomato mixture until they are fully wilted and a bright emerald green. Seriously is that not the prettiest color combo above?Gorgeous green and bright red.
Once done, toss in the pasta and enjoy!
Just as the kale was pretty intimidating at first glance, the purple sweet potatoes didn’t look so appealing either. Reminder: beauty isn’t on the outside. Goes for people and veggies as it turns out.
Once you peel away those somewhat scary looking skins – behold the most beautiful purple ever. Seriously, this may be the most beautiful vegetable I’ve ever seen, or eaten. Nature tricks us once again as we think it can’t get more beautiful than that – and you cook these babies and they turn lighter, brighter, almost the color of amethyst. I don’t know if I had more fun prepping and cooking these to discover their changing colors or eating them. The taste did not disappoint!
I knew I wanted to make them Friday night for dinner but wasn’t sure what to make. I also had eggplant arrive in my delivery. As you may recall, I’m not a fan of eggplant. In a desperate attempt to turn this around I started googling “delicious recipes for eggplant haters” -while the search returned a number of results, apparently there’s a lot of eggplant haters out there, they all included vegan no no’s like loads of cheese or other dairy products. I went out on a limb and decided to make a vegan vegetable tempura with the eggplant and purple sweet potatoes. Mind you, this was last night, after a long work day, so Luis arrived home to see me cutting the eggplant and scary looking potatoes and wasn’t so excited. I had faith though – after my successful adventures with kale, I thought it would be OK.
I found some vegan tempura batters and settled on one that just called for flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. The resulting tempura were really delicious – and the batter almost had a sweet pancake flavor wrapping the veggies. Success – I liked the eggplant! And those purple sweet potatoes were so yummy. I’ll definitely be experimenting more with this ingredient in the future. As far as the eggplant goes, I’m not convinced I’ll like it any way other than fried. Now I know fried food isn’t really what veganism is all about, but come on, I’ve had enough salads in the past two weeks so I got a little restless. Also, I can assure you the pictures don’t do it any justice.
Garlicky Kale and Tomato Pasta
- Whole wheat penne pasta – you can use any pasta you like, I wanted to ensure protein in this meatless pasta
- 2 – 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion
- 3 garlic cloves – the garlic cloves I had were huge so this was probably closer to 6 normal sized cloves which produces a strong garlic flavor, just use less if you don’t like a strong garlic flavor
- One big bunch of kale – I used what was delivered and I think totaled about 10 large leaves.
- 1 pint grape tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon capers
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- salt and pepper to taste
- Cook pasta in boiled salted water.
- Slice onion, garlic and tomatoes. Clean kale and remove stems. Slice leaves thinly into strips.
- Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. This is the base of your sauce so you want enough to coat the pasta and vegetables. Add onions and saute several minutes until soft. Add tomatoes, garlic, capers, and red pepper flakes stirring frequently so garlic doesn’t burn. Cook until tomatoes are almost soft.
- Layer kale leaves over tomato mixture and let steam for a minute or two. Add salt and pepper to taste. Begin to stir and fold the tomato mixture over the leaves. Cook until all leaves are wilted and cooked through.
- Add cooked pasta to the vegetable mix. Stir until the pasta is coated and add extra olive oil if needed.
Vegan Vegetable Tempura
If you try this recipe, I served it with soy sauce which was a bit too strong. It needs a light tempura sauce which I just didn’t have the ingredients on hand to make.
- Desired vegetables – I used eggplant and purple sweet potatoes
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup chilled water
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil plus more for frying
- Mix flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder together. Slowly add oil and water and mix until smooth. Chill for 15 minutes.
- Cut vegetables into uniform slices.
- Heat oil in large fry pan over medium – high heat. Dip vegetables into batter one by one and then add to oil, frying several at a time.
July 12, 2011 § 5 Comments
I’ve been on a recent kick of eating raw corn. That’s right – uncooked corn. Sounds kind of strange, doesn’t it. I’m an avid corn lover. Anything with corn and I’m game. Mmmmm…I’d like some creamy corn chowder right about now – yummy! Might have to find a vegan version. (Update: check out the vegan corn chowder recipe I came up with.)
So with my love for corn it’s amazing that I’ve never even thought to try it raw. But it’s so easy to cut off the cob and is surprisingly sweet and of course crisp. Now, while I love my corn, I don’t love black beans. But I’m trying to like them more with this vegan challenge. I’ve added them to my veggie bowl at Chipotle and have learned one scoop is good – two scoops, too black beany. I can enjoy a sprinkling of beans throughout my food but not a whole bundle.
I put together this salad recently for lunch and enjoyed it with some whole grain tortilla chips. Smokey cumin, sweet corn, crisp cucumbers, spicy jalapeno – everything in here works so nicely together. You could serve it as a salad or a salsa. If serving with tortilla chips just watch how much salt you add as the chip will add a lot of salt. I’ve also been adding crunched up pita chips in my salads recently which is really good and would be great here.
To make just chop up whatever veggies you’d like to include. I added red bell pepper, cucumber, scallions, and jalapeno. Red onion would work nicely in place of scallions. I didn’t have tomatoes on hand but they’d also be great here. For the vinaigrette mix olive oil, lime juice, cumin, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss and enjoy! As with many salads like this – it’s even better the next day.
Fiesta Corn Salad with Cumin Lime Dressing
- 4 ears corn
- 1 cup black beans
- 1/2 red bell pepper
- 1/2 cucumber
- 4 scallions
- 1 jalapeno
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 lime
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- tortilla chips or pita chips to serve if desired
- Rinse beans and set aside. Clean and cut corn from cob. Dice veggies.
- Whisk olive oil, lime juice, cumin, salt, and pepper. Toss in a bowl with beans, corn, and remaining veggies.
July 10, 2011 § 3 Comments
Last night at midnight I’d officially made it through the first week of my 30 day vegan challenge. As I wrote in my last post (on day 4!) it’s been challenging to say the least. I’m starting to get the hang of it, filling up on lots of fresh veggies and fruit, but man is it tough. Not to mention that I’ve just been hungry a lot! There were several times this week that I really thought – I’m going to have to quit. Luckily, or unluckily depending on how you look at it, I documented it here so I felt quitting would be, well losing I guess. I’ve never been known to be one to hold back on indulgences – I enjoy my desserts, pasta, wine, all in all just good food. This has kind of become a self control challenge – let’s see what I can do. And, while I’m testing my self control, I’m trying new flavors – good and bad.
It’s so easy to get stuck in a routine of making the same thing over and over – or even just ordering the same things when you go out. We all have our go to recipes that provide us quick comfort on week night ensuring a good meal. In the age of multi-tasking, it can be hard to find the time to try something new. My go-to recipes all include meat, seafood, or dairy, so I’ve been starting fresh over the past 7 days. My adventures in cooking this week: quinoa and eggplant.
I’ve seen lots of recipes with quinoa that look great but had never made it before. I actually was really overzealous and bought a package at Costco I think two years ago thinking I’d get healthy and it just sat in the pantry until it expired. I don’t know how to describe quinoa – it’s a grain that is like a tiny little pearl. Once cooked its quite light and fluffy. It’s known for it’s “delicious” nutty taste. I for one, didn’t think it was so delicious. To me it just tasted like health food – and not good health food. I had made a veggie stir fry and served it over the plain quinoa. I’d cooked the veggies with coconut oil which is healthier than olive oil, but man was it plain. It needed a spicy sauce or something. The picture above looks much more appetizing than it was. That was the night I almost quit – I could barely take it.
But the next day I decided to try it out again as I had some cooked quinoa leftover and I made what turned out to be a very good Greek quinoa salad. The key, I learned, was the dressing. The red wine vinegar was acidic enough to counter balance the quinoa flavor – providing a nice salad with some added protein and texture.
To make the salad, rinse and cook the quinoa according to the package instructions. Add diced and seeded cucumbers, scallions or red onion, red pepper, and black or kalamata olives. I didn’t have tomatoes on hand but they’d certainly be a great addition. The dressing is two parts olive oil and one part red wine vinegar with a generous portion of dried oregano. The result – a quinoa salad I can enjoy and feel satisfied from!
The cooking adventures continued Friday night with a homemade marinara sauce made of tomato, roasted eggplant, peppers, and garlic. I’ve never made eggplant. Clarification: I’ve never purchased or ordered eggplant. There is nothing about eggplant that appeals to me – except it’s beautiful purple skin, which I do have to admit, is quite special. This eggplant avoidance comes directly from my mom. She hates the thing after many years of eggplant parmesan on Friday nights when Catholics still observed meatless Fridays. So needless to say, we never had eggplant in our house.
I recently saw Rachel Ray make this marinara and figured anything with roasted peppers and garlic has to be good right? The kitchen smelled amazing with the vegetables and garlic roasting away. Even my husband couldn’t wait for his meatless dinner to be ready. As I pulled each item from the oven, the fragrance intensified and my stomach churned. This was going to be gooooood! I had full confidence in Rachel’s testament that this was in fact the best marinara ever. Or not…
I plated that gorgeous pasta, pouring extra sauce full of all those veggies over the top and sat proudly to eat it. I took a bite and — nada. It tasted, well, I don’t quite know how to describe but kind of just like some plain ‘ol marinara from a nondescript jar. No depth. No complexity of flavors. This sauce had a whole head of roasted garlic in it I may add – and still nothing? Rachel was a bit too sure of her testament – or what it may have been is that I still just don’t like eggplant. Last night as I recounted the story to our friends and they had ordered babaganoush. To confirm this like or dislike of eggplant I tried it and yup – no me gusta. So perhaps the eggplant flavor killed it for me.
So, I know I haven’t made a sale of this by any stretch – but if you like eggplant, you might like this recipe. I did have the leftovers today for lunch and doctored it up a bit and it was much better. I sautéed some garlic and crushed red pepper in oil and then mixed in the pasta – the extra heat and spice gave it the kick it needed. If you do try it, I’d suggest just using canned roasted red peppers. I don’t have a gas grille and trying to roast them under the broiler was a pain. I think I’ll try it again but just leave out the eggplant and see how that changes it.
So, we’ve had some successes and failures this week in the kitchen. In the end though I got to end my week on a high note. We went to Ceviche with friends before a fabulous concert. I’d recommended Ceviche as it’s right across from the arena and is one of our favorite restaurants. But as my husband pointed out – “what on earth are you going to eat?” As he says, before I was picky, now I’m just plain difficult.
So what did I eat at a restaurant full of meaty and seafood delights? I ordered my usual aceitunas y pimintos – marinated olives and peppers to start as I mused over the menu. As I’ve learned in just a few weeks, there’s only a handful of vegan options at any restaurant. I decided upon the gazpacho, arroz con pimientos, and champinones al ajillo which I confirmed all complied with a vegan diet. The gazpacho arrived and the beautiful pink color had to mean one thing – cream. There was no way that soup didn’t have dairy. I confirmed with the waiter and yes, they add cream. Interesting for a gazpacho as I’ve never had it that way. We switched the creamy gazpacho for a house salad, which I finished without a second thought. Whatever is in their vinaigrette is amazing. The arroz con pimientos – saffron rice with peppers – was so flavorful I’m not entirely convinced it was vegan. I’m guessing it had to have seafood or chicken stock in it. I confess to eating every last grain and everyone at the table reassured me saying they were pretty sure it was vegan friendly – I think they may have just been trying to be nice.
Now for the champinones al ajillo – these are sautéed mushrooms in garlic oil and finished with a sherry flambé. If you’re following along, you know I don’t like mushrooms. At all actually. So the fact that I’ve now eaten mushrooms twice in one week is pretty big. There was something spicy in it that I couldn’t figure out what it was, but must have been some red pepper flakes infused in the oil. The combination of sweet sherry and spicy, garlicky oil was amazing. I think I’m starting to like mushrooms – that’s good.
For me, this meal was success. I was worried about eating there and being tempted, wanting everything else on the table than what sat before me but I wasn’t. I thoroughly enjoyed my meal and the best part was I didn’t leave with that overstuffed feeling I usually have when I eat there. Instead, I felt content and happy.
I wonder what this week will have in store for me! On to week two…
July 7, 2011 § 3 Comments
Well, I’ve been on a vegan 30 day challenge now for four days and what have I learned? It is tough! You’re probably thinking, ummmm duh! Yes, I knew it would be tough. I knew it would be hard to watch everyone around me eating delicious things I wanted. But I think I still underestimated just how hard it really is.
Did I mention I’m on day 4???
4 of 30.
26 more days to go…
So what’s been going on in the past four days that has already left me counting down as I wrote in my first post I wouldn’t do? Well I’ve cheated twice as it turns out – not fully on purpose but twice nonetheless so I’m feeling a bit defeated at the moment. I’m a perfectionist by nature so I hate to half ass anything. Granted I had the best of intentions but we live in a black and white world and the fact is I’ve slipped twice despite my best attempts truly irritates me.
Where did I falter? Was it that Fourth of July BBQ at my parent’s house? There was an impressive spread there. But no, I didn’t even waiver – though don’t get me wrong, I considered it. But alas, I stood strong and avoided the massive array of temptation that stood before me: mac ‘n cheese oozing with goodness, hot dogs blistered from the grill, an array of salads with gourmet cheeses, decadent chocolate cake, creamy cheesecake, and the list went on and on. Yup, as I said, none of these got me. I looked them all square in the eye and said “I’m a vegan for 30 days baby.” Luckily I brought my own fresh cut corn and cucumber salad and marinated olives as that’s all I ate at that BBQ – oh and quite a few tortilla chips.
So where was the falter? Epcot. Yup, Epcot. We went to see the fireworks and I thought Japan would be my best bet for vegan options. Surely they’d have some nice stir fried veggies right? Wrong. No non-fish options at all. By this point I was ravenous and the most innocent looking thing was the California Roll. While I knew imitation crab was likely still fish – I told myself there was maybe a chance it wasn’t. I know, long shot. A quick google search at the table with a piece of California Roll already in my mouth confirmed what I knew to be true – imitation crab is still fish. Doih.
So that was my first slip. Yesterday I had to meet someone for dinner at one of my favorite Italian restaurants. At lunch I already was getting nervous thinking what on earth would I possibly be able to eat at this dinner? They’re known for handmade pastas full of egg so I knew that would be out of the question. The best decision I made at dinner was just asking the waiter what my options were rather than tempting myself with the menu – even though I basically know it by heart. Options? I had one – the chef would create a vegan meal for me. A pasta (dried not fresh) with a vegetable.
While I waited for my meal I began to wonder why I was even doing this. How silly. I was in one of my favorite restaurants I never get to go to and my dinner partner ordering fish I’d die for and me waiting for my vegan meal.
But alas – hope was restored as my dinner arrived. The waiter placed a beautiful bowl of pasta with the most delicious mushrooms and morels I’ve ever tasted. This dish was so scrumptious I couldn’t help but scrape it clean – and I don’t even like mushrooms! But these were tender and delicious, full of an earthy flavor I really enjoyed. I didn’t even miss the parmesan which I’d previously never considered eating pasta without.
By today I was feeling restored. We went to Pei Wei for dinner and I ordered what I thought to be a vegan option – I know, I know – I got the caramel chicken but no chicken just veggies J The dish was beautiful and even my husband kept eyeing it as he ate his chicken lo mein. However, again, come home to find out after a little googling that this dish likely has fish sauce in it. Oh well. You know what, I gave it my best try.
So in the end I haven’t been 100% vegan for the last few days but pretty darn close. If nothing else I ordered a meal with mushrooms and morels – something I’d never have done before, and I opted for veggies tonight loading up on tons of natural goodness where I previously would have just loaded up on animal protein. I think this challenge will force me to get more creative and think outside the box, which can’t be bad. We went to Whole Foods tonight and I’ve stocked up on all sorts of produce for the next few days to not have any more blunders. Eating in is the easy part – its going out that’s tough. I’ve been researching new recipes and am looking forward to trying some from here, here, and here in the next few days. And for eating out I now have this to reference.
The adventure continues…
Update: See how my 30-day vegan challenge ended and how I’m eating today.
July 3, 2011 § 28 Comments
As I’ve mentioned, I’m reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Kingsolver’s words and widsom have been weighing heavily on my mind as I consider my usual shopping patterns. Never before had I really thought about the produce at the grocery store – juicy, ripe fruit mid-winter probably should have been a warning sign but to be honest I never gave it much thought. The more I read, the more concerned I am. This isn’t only about the environment. I’m not a real green person if we’re being honest. Sure I recycle, but that’s about the extent of it. And I don’t stress out too much when I’m handed a plastic to-go cup. For me the bigger issue is the idea of being neighborly. I long to live in a place where I know my neighbors and care about their well being. This is as much my fault as modern society’s that I do not have that relationship today. But I can change – I can go to the farmer’s market and meet the person growing my food. I can ensure my hard earned dollars stay in my community rather than going to some huge enterprise that’s likely to ship that money elsewhere. I can ensure the farmer actually makes a good profit off my purchase as opposed to a marginal wage selling to those powerful enterprises.
Now, all those reasons are valid – but as long as we’re being really honest, you know what else really makes me want to eat local? Taste. I long to have fresh apples right off the tree or tomatoes fresh off the vine. The lovely produce you see in the photo above is from a beautiful market in Valencia, Spain – I’m fairly certain all that food came from within 50 miles and it was so delicious. As I walked the stalls, I dreamed of a day when I could cook with food this fresh. We can still remember the taste of the freshest fish we’ve ever had over a year later – ironic as we live in Florida.
So, I’ve become a bit more conscious about my food sources and coincidentally met someone who does reflexology and specializes in healing foods. She’s been educating me on toxic foods – the biggest surprise to me was dairy, especially milk. I suffer from some inflammation – a pesky cyst in my left wrist being the most problematic – among other things she’s diagnosed just by poking on my foot (which is surprisingly painful I might add). I used to go to power yoga up to 5 times a week and couldn’t get enough of it. Three years later I can barely manage a downward dog due to the pain from that darn cyst. A $5,000 surgery with a month recovery and no computer use was out of the question, so I’ve given up yoga for the past three years and for the most part been able to ignore that little cyst as a result of not putting any pressure on my hand. Anytime we do work around the house or I carry something heavy I can feel that dull pulsing pain. Hearing the recommendation of eliminating dairy from my diet to reduce this pain and possibly be able to return to yoga was all I needed to get started. Further googling showed that the cyst aside – milk is pretty bad so eliminating it was a good idea.
Now eliminating dairy isn’t going to magically reduce the pain in my wrist but it may help along with eating the right foods to heal it. Since learning of this a few weeks ago, I gave up all dairy products except for the occasional serving of cheese – cheese pizza that would be! For me, this mostly means milk, cream, and yogurt. I picked up some So Delicious hazelnut coconut milk creamer for my morning coffee and I have to say, it is “so delicious” and I like it even better than my previous “had to have” vanilla creamer. I’m taking Good Belly’s probiotic drink now that I’m not eating yogurt which surprisingly doesn’t taste bad at all and in fact does put a smile on my face as the marketing promises. I figured I might as well give this a real try and I’m trying to cut out sugar and I’ve successfully cut out Diet Coke – something I was previously addicted to, known for drinking several a day at a minimum. Aside from a sleepy day yesterday and longing for some mid-day caffeine – I haven’t missed the Diet Coke. I’ve been able to avoid desserts and my one indulgence has been Coconut Bliss ice cream – amazingly delicious and you can’t even tell there’s no cream.
All in all, I’m feeling pretty good about my progress and I want to take it further. I’ve been reading a lot about veganism and the health benefits. I’m enticed to give it a try at the promise that it will help trim my waistline and give me more energy – win win! However, I’m not sure if I can really handle eliminating all animal byproducts. So, I’m embarking on a 30 day challenge. Last night we dined at Ceviche and I got to enjoy many favorites that won’t make the cut anymore so I figure now is as good a time as any to give it a go.
What do I expect to be the most challenging? Pizza. No doubt about it. Crisp dough oozing with bubbly cheese – mmmm. Fresh pasta topped with parmesan will be another. I’m not sure long term I can fully give them up but I’m willing to try. Fish is another – I’m not too worried about giving up chicken but the fish part will be tricky. Eggs will also be extremely challenging as I do love my weekend omelets. At the end of the day I figure its 30 days – I’ll give it a try and we’ll see what happens.
Hopefully I won’t be counting down the days eagerly awaiting the end (although, can I point out Day 1 is down!) I’m hoping I can challenge myself to continue “cooking con sal” and create flavorful meals even my husband will be impressed by. I’m going to try to blog as often as possible to track progress and see if I really do feel a shift. We shall see how that goes
Here’s to eating more veggies and finding vegan recipes full of flavor! Oh, and finding something to eat at the Fourth of July BBQ tomorrow – I might be kicking myself for starting today when I see the lineup on the table. Guess I’ll have to swing by the grocery store and whip up something to bring along.
Update: See my 30 day vegan challenge recap and why I’ve decided to stay vegan.