Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Happy Veganniversary to Meeeee!

One year peoples!

January 24, 2011 was the day I embarked upon my vegan voyage, having decided a few days prior to give this Kind Diet thing a try and see if it was something I could get on board with.

One year later, I think I can safely say I'm on board and don't have any plans to ever jump ship. This ride is just too good.

Feeling all nostalgic today, I went back and read my first blog post , and was amused by this:

Not going vegan...lots more to that lifestyle to consider...just dabbling for the time being (or as Alicia calls it, flirting) with the intention of making healthier and kinder lifestyle choices :)

I remember originally being very comfortable with this change because I avoided setting any huge expectations for myself. I just figured I'd cut back on the meat and dairy and try out some Kind Diet recipes for a while. I expected to go a week, but the food was really, reeeeeeally good, so a week became two, and two became fifty-two. This is primarily thanks to The Kind Diet. The recipes were delicious and kept me motivated to continue in those first few critical weeks, and Alicia's voice throughout the book was gentle and encouraging. I was reluctant to label myself anything at first, as I set out with the intention of avoiding labels and expectations, and didn't embrace the vegan title for a while. I wouldn't claim to be vegan, just that I was trying to eat like one.  

And eat I did. Lots. 

Dessert too? Yes indeed. 

Deprive myself? Hell no. 

Over the last year I got excited about food. I discovered so many cruelty-free, insanely delicious options that I doubt I'd ever have had the inclination to experiment with. I discovered collard greens, nutritional yeast, vegan cupcakes, and a life-altering Caesar salad recipe. I started craving all things green and leafy. I made copious amounts of chocolate peanut butter cups. If I wanted to eat something, I ate it. 

I didn't exercise any more than I used to (Pilates class and hiking with my ridiculously handsome dog when weather and time permitted), and I didn't make an effort to loose any weight, but by the summer I noticed that my summer clothes were fitting a little more loosely. Now, a lady never reveals her weight, but I will admit that the muffin top that used to peek over the side of my pants had gone down some, and it turned out that after five months or so I had lost about 10 lbs and one dress size. Not a huge achievement in the grand scheme of things, but considering it was virtually effortless, I thought that was a pretty cool side effect of eating Kind. 

Another awesome side effect of being plant-strong? Awesome poo. Yes, I'm going there. When Oprah's staff went vegan for a week, she mentioned that the washrooms at Harpo studios went through way more toilet paper than usual. That's because vegan poo is the shit. Without animal carcasses taking their sweet time to work their way through your intestines, you digest your food much more quickly and efficiently. Without going into too much detail (because you never know, I might run for Prime Minister one day and nobody wants a PM who talks about her BM's), I have definitely noticed a huge improvement in that area. Constipation no more.

I used to get an upset stomach once or twice a week. Nothing too serious, but definitely unpleasant. I never was able to figure out what brought it on, and just resigned myself to the idea that this was normal, because it was my normal. How many stomach aches have I had since going vegan, you may wonder?


I have had two stomach aches in the last year. One was after I ate a bunch of dried mangoes on an empty stomach and felt like crap for the day and then puked them out in the evening. The second was in Vegas after eating at the Luxor buffet. Nothing against the Luxor buffet! It was delicious, but I accidentally ate beef adobo when I thought it was bean adobo. I'm not sure if it was a mental thing or a true physical response, but my stomach felt off for a few hours after that.

And that's it. Two stomach aches per vegan year vs. two per omnivorous week. Just another pleasant side effect of getting on board with The Plant.

The best thing about this past year, however, truly has been knowing that I've made a huge step in the direction of cruelty-free choices. The main reason I started dabbling in the vegan world was because I could no longer ignore where my food came from. It really horrifies me now to think about what the food industry has become. I had an awareness for years, but didn't want to look into it, because I knew I wouldn't like what I discovered. I was content ignoring the reality of what I was supporting, because the idea of making a huge shift in lifestyle was daunting.

And then my bff bought me The Kind Diet. And I heard Alicia Silverstone's sweet and non-judgmental yet persuasive voice, and I couldn't ignore the reality of what it meant to purchase animal products any longer. I was lucky that Rob the Husband was eager to get on board, and the changes started happening steadily. It's a work in progress, and I'm far from perfect, but I'm happy and content knowing I'm no longer contributing to an industry that is so contrary to the ideas of respect and compassion for sentient beings.

I don't have to have a steak to be happy and enjoy food. A cow doesn't have to suffer and die to satisfy my palette. I'm good. Really.

Over the past year I have come to see how truly unnecessary it is to eat animals. I feel lighter, physically and mentally, not consuming animal products. Yah, I could eat a steak, but why would I want to? It's not necessary. It's not worth it. It's pointless.

So, so pointless.

Paul McCartney had a revelation years ago while reeling in a fish: "I am killing him - all for the passing pleasure it brings me."

Was the pleasure animals brought me, in the form of food, sport, decor, fashion, or beauty, really worth the suffering inflicted upon them? Was I that desensitized to the fact that these are sentient beings, and they suffer needlessly? Needlessly, because I can enjoy food, sport, decor, fashion, and beauty from other wonderful sources.

There was a time when I could eat a ham sandwich while watching Babe and still feel all warm and fuzzy when James Cromwell looked down and said, "That'll do pig." How does that make sense? Yahhh...it really doesn't. The disconnect and desensitization was there, and it was convenient. But I needed to check back into reality and re-sensitize myself to what was going on. Because the way I was carrying on when it came to animals made no friggen sense.

This is why, one year later, this "vegan thing" is no longer a "thing" I'm doing; rather, it has just become my life. I think I'm pretty comfortable calling myself vegan at this point. Like everything else in life, it's a work in progress. But it makes sense to me, I love how it has enriched my life, I'm giddy about the plant-strong changes I've seen my friends make, and the cupcakes are pretty damn spectacular.

I've discovered wonderful local eateries, kickass cruelty-free shoes, amazingly passionate organizations, and brilliant online pages and communities motivated by compassion and sharing ideals I feel good about supporting.

And now, to celebrate my one year veganniversary, I present a picture with my vegan bible.

In my pantry, because I'm cool like that.

Please disregard the jar of pickled baby seal meat next to the foie gras. I swear I didn't buy that...it was a gift.

Onward to Year Two...no longer flirting with the Kind life, but going steady. Ima keep the blog name though, because Going Steady With Kind just sounds weird.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Very Vegan Christmas (crazy belated but I don't care)

Um...so...yah...it's been a while.

My last post was about my first vegan Halloween. And there's been a whole lotta stuff that's gone down since then in the realm of family drama, travel, getting knighted, stolen purses and spinal taps. Doesn't leave much time or inclination for blogging. 

But now I'm kinda going through withdrawl. There's still not much time for blogging, but the inclination has returned, hence my Christmas reflection :)

And I was totally lying about the whole getting knighted thing. 

It seems kind of late to blog about Christmas, but my tree is still up, as are my lights and a whole crapload of other decorations, so it's still appropriate. Plus we just had a snow day on Friday (score no school!) and my Zooey Deschanel Christmas cd is still in my car. I can drag this Christmas stuff out for a little while longer.

Which brings us to Christmas Dinner. This year we opted for a low-key Christmas, and just had some close friends over on Christmas Eve. This worked out great for me, as our tradition has always been a meat-free Christmas Eve. At my mother's insistence we still had fish on the table, but at least I didn't have to tolerate the revered turkey carcass that has been the centerpiece of so many Christmas Days. 

The meal began with a Polish staple, borscht (beet soup). 

Vegan by default, this is a soup I grew up on, staining many a white shirt over the years. It's tangy and red and delicious, made even better paired with uszka, little perogy-dumpling like bits of dough stuffed with mushrooms. 

Uszka literally translates into ears (gross), and this was the first year I bothered to question why they were called that, only to realize that they do kind of look like ears. 

This Christmas my mother was kind enough to veganize the dough so I was able to partake in the uszka goodness, which is awesome because beet soup just isn't the same without doughy, mushroomy chunks of awesome floating around in it.

A couple of years ago, after watching too many episodes of Hell's Kitchen (where Gordon Ramsay would always feature either lamb or beef Wellington at dinner service) I made it my life's ambition to try beef Wellington. I had the opportunity to do so on a cruise ship, and quickly discovered I loved meaty things wrapped in pastry (which should have come as no surprise considering the amount of cocktail wienies I've consumed in my life). This is why I was super excited to bust out my Field Roast Cranberry Fig Loaf for the main course this Christmas Eve. 

This dish has that special occasion vibe to it...it's not something you have just any day. It's awesome. The flakyness of the pastry on the outside combined with a tasty, slightly sweet inside thanks to the cranberries and figs makes for a nice, classy main dish. I topped it off with Cranberry Apple Sauce (which I think I found in a Taste magazine from BC Liquor stores a couple of Christmases ago) and Savory Gravy from Skinny Bitch (p. 146).

This is hands down my favourite cranberry sauce...and I'm not even totally sure where I found the recipe. Regardless, it's super easy, delicious, and such an integral part of Christmas dinner that I'm going to go ahead and post the recipe:

Cranberry Apple Sauce
- 1/3 cup apple cider or juice
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 12 oz bag fresh cranberries
- 2 apples, peeled, cored, & chopped

In a medium, non-reactive saucepan, dissolve sugar into juice over a medium heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until cranberries pop and sauce thickens. Makes about 4 cups.

That's it. Super easy. Super festive. Super yum.

The Skinny Bitch gravy is made with miso and nutritional yeast, giving it a strong, distinct flavour, and is super creamy. The recipe also makes a ton of the stuff, so we had a lot left over. It worked brilliantly on the Field Roast, and would be just as brilliant on mashed potatoes or Gardein or oatmeal (maybe if you're pregnant). 

My Rating:
Field Roast Cranberry Fig Loaf - 4 Happy Tongues
Cranberry Apple Sauce: 4 Happy Tongues
Savory Gravy - 4 Happy Tongues

I also busted out a couple of tried, tested and true Alicia dishes...Scarlett Roasted Vegetables (Kind Diet p. 267) and my favourite Cornbread (Kind Diet p. 163)

With the help of my mother, we also veganized a couple more Polish staples...cabbage rolls and perogies, but they deserve a dedicated post of their own (coming soon! Unless I get another friggen spinal tap and end up with another week-long spinal headache and need another epidural blood patch so I can sit upright without my head exploding or I really do get knighted...that might result in another blogging hiatus). 

My vegan dishes did have to share the table with some non-vegan options, because my mom hasn't quite embraced the plant-strong world fully yet, but overall the potential for a totally vegan Christmas was evident. And considering the copious amounts of leftovers we had (because overestimating the amount of food you will need is somehow engrained in the Polish community), I am hopeful that next Christmas we can eliminate even more animal products from the dinner table.

Of course, we cannot forget dessert. 

Firstly, this Tarte Aux Pommes from Vegan Yum Yum has a delicious, easy to make crust, and with it's warm, fruity, cinnamony essence, it falls under the comfort food umbrella and brings me to my happy place. 

I didn't roll out my dough enough, so it was a bit short to fold up over the top all around, but luckily this is a very forgiving dessert to assemble because you don't have to close off the top with dough. 

Also, if you're in the mood for something ridiculously sweet and decadent, you must try this Sinless Sticky Toffee Pecan Pudding from Oh She Glows. My friend tweeted this recommendation to me, and I knew I had to try it. Holy crap, does this taste naughty without being all that naughty thanks to brown rice syrup. This dish is best right out of the oven while it's still nice and warm. and I'd assume it would be even better with ice cream. Brown rice syrup has a unique flavour, and it might take newbies a couple of bites to acclimatize to it if they're expecting a traditional caramel/toffee flavour, but the satisfying sweetness easily won me over.

Blurry pic quality...my bad.

My Rating:
Tarte Aux Pommes - 4 Happy Tongues
Sinless Sticky Toffee Pudding - 4 Happy Tongues

So there you have it...an easily veganizable, delicious Christmas dinner that is colourful, nutritious, delicious, and kept me full all the way through Midnight Mass that night. And of course I snuck another piece of pie after Midnight Mass, because it was Christmas, and anything you eat in the middle of the night at Christmas doesn't count. Santa will totally back me up on that one.

Speaking of Santa, we also left out vegan snickerdoodles from Enjoy Life for him that night, along with a glass of almond milk. I'm sure he was most appreciative, because they were all gone by Christmas morning.

And Rob the Husband, in addition to hooking me up with a She & Him Christmas cd, an iPhone 4S (SCORE!!) and having my wedding dress heirloomed (after 8 years of it sitting scrunched in a bag in my closet), also got me a beautiful box of di erbe vegan bath stuff from Winnipeg...body lotion, lip balm, soap, and facial stuff.

That bath stuff should make up for my birthday milk bath faux pas in Whistler a few months ago. 

The vegan gift awesomeness continued as my mom and sister gave me two vegan dessert books to add to my Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.


Sigh...so Christmas 2011 was the last time I'll experience my first vegan Christmas. As I approach the one year mark of my plant-strong lifestyle, I'm quickly running out of vegan firsts, having gone through all the major holidays and all four seasons. But I figure there will still be lots of other plant-strong firsts to experience along the way. 

Like my first time listening to She & Him's Christmas Waltz while eating kale chips sprinkled with nutritional yeast. Quick...go grab a bag of kale chips sprinkled with nutritional yeast and we can experience this first together! Unless you've already listened to She & Him's Christmas Waltz while eating a bag of kale chips sprinkled with nutritional yeast. Then it won't be a first for you. It's ok...Zooey loves you anyway. 

That just put a smile on my face for the rest of January :)

But I'll try not to smile too big because kale chips like getting stuck in my teeth. Not attractive.

Merry Very Belated Christmas :)