Monday, July 21, 2014

Vegan Living- Making the switch

I often get asked what do vegans eat? Why did you go vegan. What about the kids, are they forced to eat this way? 
Well, to answer the first part, we eat pretty much what the rest of the world eats minus anything that comes from an animal, including all dairy products. I am still not 100% vegan but our family is working on it. Ive been going down with path for about 6 months now and it has it's challenges and benefits. I have tons more energy. My hair and skin are healthier. I sleep great and I feel healthier overall. Plus, I've managed to drop a few unwanted pounds!
But, with all the benefits I have my challenges as well. I grew up eating meat and frankly I liked the way it tasted. I still have moments when I smell a steak or burger and really,really want to get one. Afterall, I ate this way for over 30 years, it will take time, practice and forethought to change my habits and patterns. Rome was not built in a day and neither were my eating habits. 
Plus, if I want to be  honest its cheaper to eat non-vegan/non-vegetarian. All the products that are healthy for us are expensive. I can go to McDonald's and feed my whole family off the dollar menue for the price of one salad.Vegan burgers cost almost double that of a regular one. I can fill up my grocery cart with junk, box foods, meat and dairy for around half the cost of fruits,vegetables, non-dairy items and ingredients to make meals from scratch. Cost is a huge factor and a huge struggle with maintain this lifestyle. My food budget went from around $300 a month for a family of 4 to around $600 when we made the switch. Another disadvantage is that I have to go grocery shopping almost weekly living a vegan lifestyle. Fruits and vegetables just don't last a month in the fridge. Its hard to really stock pile. 

Co-ops are non existent in my area and the ones that I have seen really do not give you that much bang for your buck. Farmers markets are great, if you want to haggle and wait for the last day it runs when people are willing to bargain, but it is time consuming and I am one of those people that really hate to haggle. 

I am not sure if this one is a perk or not but since I went vegan I have watched alot of videos on farming practices, animal cruelty and the lot. It leaves very vivid images locked into my mind when I go to eat chicken and eggs especially. I almost cannot eat them at all even when I have a moment of weakness and buy them. I get these images running through my head of the torture they went through, the way they are killed, the conditions they are forced to live in and the abuse so many endure with no medical treatments. It disgusts me. It's the main reason our family is living this lifestyle and will continue to.  Plus, I look at how wasteful we are as Americans. How much food we toss to the trash because of overproduction. I know it drives prices down, but it also makes innocent animals suffer for what, to end up in the garbage unused? It makes no sense to me.

Which brings me into do I "force" my kids to live this lifestyle. Yes and no. I only cook vegan in our home. Sometime vegetarian, but 90% vegan. My kids have seen the same videos I have. They voice the same problems, concerns that I have and do. They have not  complained to me about the food switch the way I thought they would. They know at home what we eat and why, but I do allow them to eat what they want when we go out in public. Sometimes they still eat meat/dairy other times they do not. My two sons love this lifestyle and love the food. My daughter struggles more with it, but I feel it is more of wanting to fit in with her friends then the food-although I could be wrong.  Either way I do not force them. I encourage it and I have set boundaries that they know to follow at home and give them options when they are out and about. For school, my youngest normally wants to pack him lunch and eat the vegan lifestyle, although some days he wants to eat what everyone else is eating at school. I try not make an issue out of it. My daughter is homeschooled so she eats whats in the house and on occasion I will let her order her lunch. My eldest is in college and can fed for himself in the food department, but when he is around he eats only strict vegan.
I would love to hear how your family has adopted to switching to a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle. Any tips or tricks you wish to share. If you are insterested in making the switch here are several past posts you can check out: 
Steel Cut Oats with Cinnamon and Vanilla
Breakfast 

 
Ingredients:

2 cups water
1 cup unsweetened soy milk
Pinch of salt
1 cup steel cut oats
1/2 vanilla bean
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 cup raisins
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup walnuts
1-2 tsp agave syrup

 
Preparation:

  1. Add the water, milk, salt, oats, vanilla bean, cinnamon stick and raisins to the pressure cooker.
  2. Bring the cooker to high pressure over high heat, then lower the heat and cook under pressure for 3 minutes. The cooking time starts once the pressure is up. Then, remove it from the heat and allow the pressure to come down naturally. During this time, the oats will continue to cook.
  3. Then, carefully remove the lid and check to see if the oats are cooked enough. Mine were not at this point. If not, remove the pot from the heat, lock on the lid, and let them sit for another 10 minutes.  They will continue cooking during this time.
  4. Remove the lid. Then remove the vanilla bean and cinnamon stick and set aside. Stir in the cinnamon, walnuts, and agave syrup to taste. 

Recipe and photo credit to:


Salsa Verde Potato Salad       

Lunch
  
Ingredients:

1kg chat potatoes
1 bunch parsley
1 tbsp capers
1 dill pickle, roughly chopped
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp red wine vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
2-3 shallots, chopped (scallions)


Preparation:
  1. Bring a large pot of water to the boil and add the potatoes. Simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife. Drain and set aside.
  2. Combine the parsley, capers, pickle, lemon juice, vinegar and 2 tbsp olive oil in a food processor. Process until you get to your desired consistency. You can either leave it a bit chunky (like a traditional salsa verde) or continue until it's smooth.
  3. Cut any of the larger potatoes in half, if desired. Stir through the dressing. Sprinkle with chopped shallots (scallions) and drizzle with the remaining olive oil. There is no need to add salt, as the capers are quite salty already. Serve warm or at room temperature.



Very Vegan Chili  
Dinner



Ingredients:

  
3 cans of beans OR about 6 cups of cooked beans, any variety
1 medium onion, diced
1 can diced tomatoes OR about 3 tomatoes, diced
1 can diced green chili's OR your choice of fresh peppers, we like jalapenos
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
1/4 cup chili powder (add more to suit your taste, we use 1/2 cup)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
Salt
Pepper

   
Preparation:


  1. Add beans, diced onion, tomatoes, peppers, and tomato sauce to a large sauce pan and cook until onions, peppers, and tomatoes are cooked.
  2. Add spices to suit your individual taste preferences.
  3. Heat until extra liquid, if any, has cooked out.




Raw Strawberry Cheesecake  
Dessert
 
   
Ingredients:  

Crust
1 cup pecans
1 cup almonds
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 medjool dates, pitted and chopped

Filling
3 cups raw cashew pieces, soaked overnight (or at least 3 hours)
1/2 cup agave syrup
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (alcohol free is preferred for raw desserts)
32 oz strawberries (reserve 9 for decorating), hulled and halved - about 4 cups
3/4 cup coconut oil, melted  
Raw Fluffy White Frosting
1/2 cup raw cashew pieces, soaked overnight
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons agave syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (alcohol free is preferred for raw desserts)
1/4 cup raw coconut oil, melted
Strawberry Coulis (Coulis is a fancy word for pureed sauce)
2 cups chopped strawberries
3 tablespoons agave syrup
 

Preparation:
  1. Lightly grease a 9 inch spring form pan with coconut oil and set aside.
  2. To prepare the crust, pulse nuts and salt in a food processor fit with a metal blade. When nuts are fine crumbs, add the dates and pulse until the dough holds together when squeezed between your fingers. Firmly press crust into the bottom of prepared cake pan. Set aside.
  3. To prepare the filling, pulse cashews in food processor until crumbly. Add agave, water, lime juice and vanilla and puree until very smooth, scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula to make sure you get everything. Feed the strawberries through the top of the food processor and puree until incorporated. The filling should turn a pretty pink. With the processor running, add the melted coconut oil in a steady stream.
  4. Pour the filling into the cake pan. It will look like a smoothie and you'll think no way it will set, but it will! Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge to set. Make sure it's level so that your cake doesn't come out wonky. Let set for at least 4 hours.
  5. Prepare the frosting in basically the same way as the cake. Pulse the cashews in the food processor until crumbly. Add the water, agave and vanilla and blend until smooth. With the food processor running, stream the coconut oil in through the top until combined. Pour into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Chill until set, about 2 hours.
  6. Prepare the sauce when you're close to serving. Just mash the strawberries up with the agave until it's all red and syrupy.
  7. To assemble
  8. Release the cake from its springform prison. Use a mini scoop to place 8 mounds of icing around the perimeter of the cake and one in the center. Slice the tops off the reserved strawberries and gently smush them upside down into the frosting mounds. If you don't have a mini scoop, just use a spoon and make them as pretty as you can, they're gonna get smushed anyway.
  9. To serve, place some Strawberry Coulis on the plate and serve the cake over it. Dig in!
  
Recipe and photo credit to:
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