Things I Never Considered in my First Week Eating Vegan

Eating vegan this past week—getting to try a whole different way of eating—has been a blast. It’s kind of like walking in someone else’s shoes for a while to get a different perspective. I’ve learned a lot of new information. I didn’t radically alter my eating habits. To me taking away chicken and dairy weren’t really tough decisions to make since I already ate a lot of vegetables and fruits and drank a lot of plant-based milks to begin with. You won’t find a blog post about how much energy I’ve gained from doing this or how my poop has changed and how I go five times a day. My poop is none of your business. My energy levels were through the roof before starting this project and they’re the same. What you will find in this blog post is the information I’ve gained along the way.

As always, information is a powerful thing. Information creates knowledge and knowledge creates power. Power to make a decision on where you stand on a particular topic. After eating vegan for a week and gaining more knowledge on the subject, I’d like to share with you what I’ve learned and some of the issues I’m not sure where I stand on yet.

The best way for me to learn about something is to actually do it. It’s how I learn best—through experience. I probably get that from dancing. Dance is all motion-based. You can be a really good teacher and describe how to do something but at the end of the day you also need to be able to do it. The best way to learn how to do something in dance is to do it over and over and over until you have it right. Mistakes get made in the process, but in the end you have to make those mistakes to get better. It’s called the learning process. Different people learn different ways. I have a hard time reading about something and then making it happen. I have to go and physically do something to really feel I have a full grasp on it. I’m a spacey reader. Reading directions are hard for me because I don’t remember what I’ve read and then get frustrated. My point is the best way for me to learn about being vegan was to go to the grocery store and start reading labels. For me, part of the process of learning about veganism is doing this project.

Was I 100% vegan this week? No. I found that out through experience and references from friends.

I was about to eat a few Jelly Belly jelly beans at my fiance’s office. It had nothing to do with health—I just wanted something sweet. I stopped myself from eating it, though, because I started to think about what was in jelly beans. I read (believe it or not) that Jelly Belly’s are vegetarian but not vegan. Jelly Bellys have no animal derivatives (like some jelly beans made with gelatin) but they are coated with a beeswax coating to make them shiny but also non-vegan.

I drank non-vegan wine. My “Very Vegan Holiday” party friend warned me today that not all wine was vegan. I thought wine was made from grapes. It’s plant based and aged in an oak barrel. What’s not vegan about that? My friend gave me a website to check out to see if the wine I was drinking was vegan or not: http://www.barnivore.com. I went there and inputted my wine brand: Oliver Wine. I turned out not to be vegan. Some wines are vegan and some are not. Most in fact are not. Here’s what makes most wines non-vegan: the ingredients in the fining process. What’s the fining process? It’s a process of removing the sediments from the wine to make it more palatable in our mouths. The ingredients that are used in the fining process are animal derived. Dried bull’s blood was formerly used in the fining process. Currently used are sturgeon’s bladder (a.k.a. fish guts), egg whites and in some cases casein and yeasts from dairy products. The wine is filtered after the fining process so the fining agents are removed. However, the wine is touched by these fining agents which are animal-derived which makes it not vegan; however, you could also look at it as the wine itself is plant-based, and these agents are removed from the wine, so ultimately the wine is vegan. It depends on how you want to look at it. There was one article I read that mentioned using the moon’s gravitational pull to de-sediment his red wine (I think—it was honestly hard to tell what he the moon was supposed to be doing in the process) thus making it vegan.

Another reason I assumed wine was vegan was because I saw my vegan friend drinking it at the vegan party I attended. I even had some Oliver wine while I was there. Someone brought a bottle as a gift (and no it wasn’t me). There were a lot of people there that night that brought wine. Everyone else was drinking wine. I love wine. I had a glass of the Oliver wine that night at the vegan party because it was one of the sweeter wines that were there. Would a truly vegan party monitor the wines that are brought in? Clearly no. My point? Where do you draw the line? How extreme do you take it?

Here are two more examples: Pete was looking online on veganism and stumbled upon one about charcoal. I never knew charcoal could be non-vegan. What makes charcoal non-vegan? Animal bones. Apparently animal bones can sometimes be used in charcoal. Also, refined white sugar is something you’d think is vegan but in some cases it’s not. To make it white, sometimes it’s processed with animal bone char. The charcoal is used to remove color, impurities and minerals from sugar. The charcoal is not in the sugar but is used in the process as a filter. Thus by a process-based definition of vegan, refined sugar may not be considered vegan. It’s the same thing with the wine.

In all, the process is the ultimate question and where do you stand on the issue? Is wine vegan? Is refined white sugar vegan? Is charcoal vegan even though you’re not going to eat it (hopefully) and use it to prepare your food. The reading I’ve done has led me to the conclusion for now that it’s up in the air and the individuals decision to make. Food for thought.

Sara

Meat Pete

Ladies and Gentleman, I’d like for you to meet you guest blogger for The Greek Eating Project: Pete!

Pete is my fiance (that’s right ladies–he’s taken)! He’s also the chef of all of these meals. I purchase all of the ingredients and prep them. Pete sweeps in, puts everything together and actually cooks it!

Here are the top ten things I’d like you to know about Pete:

1. Pete believes understanding basic cooking ideas is very helpful when it comes to cooking good food.

2. Pete is cooking and baking his way through Alton Brown’s cookbooks respectively.

3. Pete is a Leo.

4. Pete is the most logical computer web programmer who seriously lacks common sense. He’s smart but may not always do smart things.

5. Pete does yoga.

6. Pete is getting ready to choke me right now as he reads this list.

7. It bugs Pete to no end that I do not cook and refuse to learn how.

8. Pete follows recipes very well and does not get frustrated reading the instructions which is the complete opposite of myself.

9. Pete is a total omnivore and doesn’t really go both ways. In other words, you’d never catch Pete lurking in the Herbivore section of the grocery store.

10. Pete enjoys running, weight lifting, swimming, biking and is getting ready to run a marathon. Oh wait…that’s me…except the marathon part! Truthfully, Pete likes to read A LOT, cook, watch the news and yell at the tv, spend time with his family and friends and he’s not that thrilled about running the Disney Marathon.

11. Pete is super smart.

I had to give Pete 11 things because he’s better than a 10. He’s definitely an 11 on my scale!

So that’s your guest Greek Eating Project blogger! You’ll get your first blog from him this Sunday!

Sara

The Greek Eating Project: Briam

Briam is the Greek name for this dish. I like the Greek name better than the English name of “Baked Zucchini with Potatoes and Carrots”. Not a very exciting title in English. Everything sounds better in Greek!

This posting is a little late and I apologize for that. I was a little lazy on Sunday but I’m back! I’m just three days late…on the blog post of course! Get your mind out of gutter. And if it wasn’t in the gutter then keep it where it was at!

Here’s a list of the organic ingredients I purchased and the store I got them at:

1. Yukon Gold Potatoes (Whole Foods)
2. Zucchini (Whole Foods)
3. Roma tomatoes (Whole Foods)
4. Baby Carrots (Whole Foods)
5. Onion (Whole Foods)
6. Parsley–the curly kind; not flat leaf (Whole Foods)
7. Garlic (Whole Foods)
8. Chicken breast (Whole Foods)

Here’s a list of the non-organic ingredients I purchased and the store I got them at:

1. Water–(my kitchen sink)
2. Salt and pepper (Town and Country)
3. Olive Oil (Costco)
4. Parmesan Cheese (Costco)

This dish made A LOT of servings. I would say we got 10 or 12 servings. I chose to add chicken and some cheese for flavor. However you can make this dish completely vegan by adding soy cheese and some kind of meat substitute (or you can skip both altogether). You can also make this dish vegetarian by adding cheese. It’s totally up to you!

Whole Foods was a great place to go for the fresh vegetables. They offer such a great selection of organic and also non-organic fresh vegetables. I haven’t replaced my staples yet like Olive Oil and cheese and salt and pepper yet because we are still using up what we had from before, most of which came from Costco. I’m keeping the focus on the main ingredients being organic for now.

This dish was very fresh tasting with a nice sauce from the tomatoes. The chicken gave it another layer of texture and the cheese added a little saltiness to the dish. However, it was the vegetables that really shine in this dish.

If you don’t like garlic, I would recommend either using less (recipe calls for 6 cloves) or skipping it if you must. I eat my lunch at my desk and I had a few cranky bees buzzing about the office complaining of the garlic stench the first day I brought this entree to work. Here was my solution: After heating my lunch in the microwave I would make sure to snap the lid securely on the gladware container, make sure no one was looking and creep back to my desk where I keep my lunchbox which has a zippered top. I would unzip the top, quickly pop open the lid of gladware container and leave it off to the side and then re-zip the lunchbox so that the meal could air out a bit–give it about 10 minutes. What did I wind up with? A really stinky lunchbox and some really happy coworkers who kept asking, “Oh my, what smells so good?” The great thing was the food stayed warm in the lunchbox but still had the chance to air out.

A note from the chef: “Because this dish bakes for about an hour and we had pan-fried the chicken in advance to get some browning, we didn’t add the chicken until the last 20 minutes of cooking so it wouldn’t dry out; however, it didn’t quite absorb all of that garlicky flavor I was hoping it would have. Next time we make this we’ll skip pan-frying the chicken advance and just let it bake for the full hour with the rest of this dish.”

There you have it! A wonderful dish that can be eaten many ways! You may want to follow up this meal with some gum because your breath will be stinky from the garlic. Don’t kiss anyone you care about right after eating this meal unless you are telling them to kiss off!

This coming week there will be a few changes. I made a vegan Greek dish from the cookbook so you’ll have my post to look forward too with a vegan twist. Also, you will have a post done in a different style from the actual chef! I’m working on a new blog post entitled “Meat Pete” so you can get to know your chef and guest blogger a little bit better! This coming week look forward to vegan lentil soup from me and Greek-style hamburgers on the grill by Pete.

If you like the reviews and ingredients listed on my blog and want to get measurements and cooking instructions I highly recommend you visit Anna O’Brien’s website to get some free recipes, meet the author and inspiration of The Greek Eating Project–and also to buy her book.

Opa!

Sara

The Lady Date

What’s a lady date? Great question! Here’s my definition: it’s any kind of get-together involving at least two close female friends who share no familial bond where said friends find a commonality, deepen a bond and strengthen a friendship. Basically, it’s girl time. Now for those with their minds in the gutter, I’m not writing about the OTHER kind of lady dates where the two ladies are seeking a lifelong (or not) companionship together with sexual needs involved. I’m writing strictly about lady friends.

Here are the essentials for a Lady Date:

1. A close female friend who is in no way related to you. Why not? Because that brings in family which can start drama. A lady date is meant to be drama free. If you go on a lady date with your female cousin Lucy and you say something Lucy doesn’t like you can bet that people will be talking about you at Aunt Myrtle’s Thanksgiving Day feast. Uh-huh. Leave the family for family occasions like reunions, holidays and weddings. For a lady date stick with a friend.

2. Make sure your lady date has a focus to it. Plan out what you’re going to do that way you both can look forward to it. I recommend selecting a specific time and location and activity for your lady date. For instance, if you want to chill out with some wine, cheese and chatter then select a location (your friend’s house) and you bring the wine and cheese and make sure you both have something in mind you want to chatter about. Or if you’re looking for a more active date the same rules apply.  Select a specific location and activity like going ballroom dancing at a local dance studio. Planning your lady date out in advance will give you more time to spend together actually enjoying your activity instead of trying to figure out where to go and what to do when you actually meet up.

3. Always be generous, courteous and say please and thank you. When you go out with a good friend, understand that they’re taking time out of their busy schedule to spend time with you and most likely vice versa. If you are lucky to have a good friend that is willing to make time for just the two of you make sure to acknowledge that by saying thank you. I also would like to point out that sometimes our friends do get busy and wrapped up in their lives and maybe have a more hectic schedule than you do at that point in your life. Make sure you know that there’s nothing wrong with always being the one who sets up the lady date. Sometimes friends just get busy and don’t think about it. Believe me, they wouldn’t carve out time in their day if they didn’t want to spend it with you. Thank them for the time they spend with you and be appreciative and they will reciprocate back in time when maybe the reverse becomes true–you’re ultra busy and their life is not as hectic.

4. Don’t cancel. Unless your child is in the hospital or you’ve suddenly come down with a horrid cold, don’t cancel. Most of my lady dates are not cancelled unless for a very good reason. There’s a reason for that: they’re well planned and thought out and we are both looking forward to the specific date. Therefore stupid excuses like “I have to clean my house” or “I can’t make it because my outdoor cat is missing” just don’t cut it. If you plan to spend time with someone, make sure you have the time available to spend and that it’s a person you want to spend time with; otherwise your outdoor cat inside the house an hour before date time. Respect your friend and yourself. Respect your time and theirs.

Here are two of my favorite lady dates:

A. Lunch on Saturdays in Chesterton with one of my friends. We usually go to the same restaurant because they have really great coffee. We don’t go every Saturday, but we wind up seeing each other about twice a month. We sit at the table and chat. I look forward to it because this lady friend is a really good friend and I always enjoy our time together. We have a very predictable, chill kind of lady date.

B. My running buddy lady dates. We do all sorts of stuff together. We have an elegant lady date planned for the ballet in Chicago in March. We ran a marathon together and believe me, you can chat about a lot of stuff when running 20 miles together (even if you get lost and all you can talk about is how you can’t believe you got lost and are rejoicing that the surprise 20 miler is over and you don’t have to do another one)!! We also go to Whole Foods together to grocery shop. We’ve gone to parties together like the inspirational “A Very Vegan Holiday.” And we also meet for lunch sometimes and occasionally go to dinner where there’s wine involved. We both love wine.

Each friend is different. I have a different bond with each friend. Our lady dates reflect that. Each is unique in its own way just like each friend and the bond I have with each friend is unique.

For any male readers I may have I would like to apologize to you. I’m a lady so I can’t really relate to what a man date would be like. I can try to speculate though. I think man dates are less one-on-one and perhaps more of a group get-together. I’m basing this assumption on my fiance and his group of friends. They all get together and catch up once a month on game night. I wonder if men bond more as a group of men vs one-on-one like females do. If you are a male reader, I’d appreciate your perspective!

Growing up I’ve had a lot more male friends than female friends. I’m really grateful to have these female friendships that have developed in my life. Having a female friend is a lot different from having a male friend. You get the woman’s perspective on situations and advice that a man just can’t give you. Other women get where you’re coming from whereas a male friend might not get it. For instance, can you imagine bonding with a male friend over PMS? It’ll never happen. It’s genetically impossible. That man has never been in your female shoes and just can’t relate no matter how hard he tries.

Embrace all friendships in your life.  Make time for the really close friends in your life, male or female. Those relationships you develop could save your life someday. You never know! In the meantime ladies call up, text or Facebook your closest female friend and set up a lady date!

Sara

The Proposal!

Somebody proposed to me this weekend! I said yes!

We had a wonderful day in Bloomington, Indiana. It was raining, but that didn’t rain on our parade at all. I graduated from IU Bloomington and Pete went there for one year and then transferred back up here. It is a special place with good memories for both of us even though we weren’t there at the same time. 

I wanted Pete to propose at the Well House. When I heard the history of the Well House on my freshman campus tour I fell in love with its story: “The small, open air pavilion, which served as the original water supply for the university, was built roughly in the shape of a Beta Theta Pi fraternity pin. In earlier times, tradition held that a student attained coed status by being kissed in the Well House while the Student Building bells chimed the 12 strokes of Midnight.”

I always wanted to be kissed in the Well House at midnight. That hasn’t happened yet. However, I’ll take a proposal at 7pm followed by a kiss! It was really romantic. We were sheltered in the Well House while it was raining. The best part is that the bells chimed on the hour.

We had a really wonderful day. I drove us down to Bloomington which is about 3/ 12 hours from Northwest, Indiana. We stopped by Oliver Winery, did a wine tasting, bought some wine and even saw a friend I went to school with that works at the winery! She asked us what we were doing down there and I said we were going to get engaged at the Well House. She said that her husband proposed to her at that same location.

After the winery we moved on to a really nice dinner at a restaurant called Scholars Inn. Pete and I went down to Bloomington and stayed at the Scholars Inn Bed and Breakfast when we first started dating. We ate dinner at their restaurant so it was really nice to go back and reminisce.

After dinner we headed over to the Well House. It was funny how giddy I felt even though I knew he was going to propose. It was just so cool having that moment together, isolated in the darkness and the mist of the rain and then hearing the clang of the bells in the bell tower as Pete got down on one knee and asked me to be his wife.

We attempted to take some pictures with our camera and we discovered that Pete cannot keep his eyes open and smile at the same time. We were hysterical as we viewed each pathetic failed picture. We settled on one that was slightly squinted and a nice smile for him. I look exactly the same in all of the pictures. However I was seeing stars at the very end of the dozen or so pictures we took! Gotta love the flash!

We wrapped up our magical trip with a walk around campus in the rain.

It was a truly magical night.

Sara

Kissing the Cow, Goat, Fish, Pig and Chicken Goodbye….Smooches

Today at dinner-time I will be officially vegan for two weeks! I’m really excited about this project! I will remain vegan through dinnertime on February 19, 2012. That is unless I decide to make a switch over to the other side.

I’ve been enjoying some animal products today. I had creamer in my coffee this morning with my homemade from scratch buttermilk pancakes made by Pete. However tonight once I have my first lentil soup meal I will be kissing animals goodbye for two weeks. I’m eager to see how I’ll feel from not having any animal byproducts or parts in ANY of my meals. I wonder if I’ll want to go back to my former ways. I wonder if I’ll ethically feel any different about eating animal or animal byproducts after this project as well. I’m sure my awareness will shift since I won’t be consuming any meat/fish etc. so that will be one less cow/chicken to go through a butchering process. Also by giving up animal byproducts it’ll be one less cow to milk, goat to make cheese from and chicken to pluck an egg from.

I think the hardest thing is going to be if I decide to go out to eat somewhere. How will I know what the ingredients are in a meal without asking. So if you want to go out to eat with me during my vegan project then we will have to go to a vegan restaurant. I’ve been wanting to try one of those out anyways! Maybe the woman who proclaimed to be my vegan buddy during this project will ask me out for a lady date to a vegan restaurant. Seriously though how do you go to a restaurant, ask for something not to be cooked in butter and know that they’re not going to betray you? You really don’t.

Animal byproducts seem to pop up everywhere which is something I discovered while I was shopping. What’s worse is that there aren’t vegan alternatives readily available in the places I go everyday. For instance, I go to Starbucks at the Radisson in Merrillville at lunch. I order a regular cup of coffee with room for some cream. I don’t like the bitterness of black coffee yet so I always put in a creamer of some kind. They don’t have soy creamer sitting out at the coffee dressing station. They do have half and half and non-fat milk. Neither of those are going to work for me. I don’t put additional sugar in my coffee (since what’s in the flavored creamers is plenty) so I guess it’s either going to be drink black coffee for two weeks or ask if they will put in some soy milk in my coffee for me. I’ve tried vanilla flavored soy milk in my coffee before and I’m not a fan. I do like the coconut flavored creamers I bought for coffee so maybe I could bring one of those with me in a cooler! I could be sneaky. Or I could save myself money and change my habits and try going without coffee for two weeks at Starbucks. Hmmm…haven’t decided what I’ll do. I do recommend the Radisson for lunch though. I love listening to the waterfall at the pool, the music they have playing and that wonderful chaise lounge with pillows on it to relax on! I love going there and relaxing with a cup of coffee.

In case you haven’t caught on yet, I LOVE coffee!

I feel like a dieter that is saying, “Well I’ll my diet on Monday.” Technically that’s what I’m doing. I’m going to start my vegan day at 5pm when we make dinner. Until then, I’ve been spending some quality time and saying farewell to the animals. Friday, I had a salmon burger grilled at the Whole Foods grill. Yep not ashamed to admit it. Right now I’m spending some quality time with my cow in the morning creamer, my chicken with the eggs in my breakfast, the fish in my salmon burger and the fabulous goat cheese in all of my amazing Greek dishes. Goodbye to you all.

Smooches!

It’s time to move on to new things!

Sara

My First Vegan Grocery Shopping Trip

I went to Whole Foods tonight to do my grocery shopping for my latest and greatest project entitled “A Very Vegan Valentine’s Day” which was inspired a runner friend of mine who is vegan!

As most of you know by now I try and buy most things organic. Most of what I got at the store this week was organic, but I noticed my concern wasn’t so much about organic as it was just finding vegan foods.

I am making a dish from The Greek Eating Project cookbook this week. It will be lentil soup. I purchased some “imitation” cheese to put on this and found this to be a somewhat frightening experience! As I scanned the imitation meat and cheeses in the vegan section at Whole Foods I looked at some of the ingredients that are in “chorizo” and “sausage”. Honestly, animal parts and byproducts aside, some of the ingredients on that list were just as bad for your as eating a bag of cookies. I did find a soy cheese that did have ingredients that I could pronounce but some of them were rather interesting. I don’t recall seeing any completely organic imitation cheese which was kind of surprising.

I’m a coffee nut and couldn’t give that up so I bought a different kind of coffee creamer which I can’t wait to try. I got one hazelnut flavored and one french vanilla flavored coconut milk based creamer.

There is a vegan restaurant in Chicago called “Soul Vegan” and they sell some already-prepared single serving size meals at Whole Foods. I mean a regular size portion too–not an Olive Garden sized portion which is ridiculously large for any one person to eat in one sitting in my opinion. Last week I tried a single serving of the already prepared lasagna and it was so good! It was a lot lighter and a lot less dense than regular meat or even veggie lasagna. I liked it so much I bought it for a meal this week. I also bought a few vegan salads with lots of fresh veggies and non-oil dressings!

For snacks I got some unsalted cashews, some juice drinks that I get every week with chia seeds which are really good. Google Mamma Chia for more information. The coconut mango flavored drink is awesome. They are also 100% organic!

My usual breakfast was already vegan so I’m keeping that: organic vanilla soy milk, oatmeal, organic banana, organic milled flax seed and all natural almond butter. It’s really good!

I also purchased three small boxed Pacific Natural Foods organic soups to try that were completely vegan. I got three types to try: carrot ginger, Thai sweet potato and butternut squash. I usually eat their roasted red pepper and tomato soup from Costco but that is not vegan because it contains milk.

When I was walking through Whole Foods tonight I was a bit worried that I’d be hungry for the next two weeks because I won’t have meat as a source of protein. What I learned tonight is that you should never shop when you think you’re going to be hungry! Just like you shouldn’t shop when you are hungry. I think I’ll be ok. I’m eager to see how I feel. I’ve never gone completely without some sort of animal part or byproduct in my diet before. Even if I’ve made a vegetable dish it usually contains some sort of cheese.

Next week I’ll try and make a more vegan type dish that’s more exciting than lentil soup. That’s not really what I’d call daring to be vegan and taking a walk on the vegan wild side. I’ll admit this week I bought some already prepared vegan food to get an idea of what I like and don’t like and also made a pretty easy recipe. I’ll try something more adventurous next week. I’m easing my way into a vegan lifestyle for the next two weeks so for my first week I’ll give myself a break. I’m just happy that everything I got was 100% vegan, mostly organic and didn’t have any scary ingredients!

And I have to put this in here: you can be vegan and eat unhealthy foods. I’m doing this to see what it’s like to still eat healthy and see how my body responds to no animal parts or byproducts. I’m not planning on eating potato chips, cookies and peanut butter sandwiches.

Sara

The Top Ten Things That Have NEVER Happened to Me…Honestly

1. I’ve never forgotten to put my deodorant on before leaving for work, realized I felt a little sweaty in the armpit region and then pulled the spare Secret stick out of my purse and applied to said area when no one was looking.

2. I’ve never sent a salad back to the kitchen at a restaurant because they put the dressing on it when I asked for it on the side.

3. I’ve never left my Christmas decorations up all year because they were just so pretty to look at.

4. I’ve never gotten drunk and then gone out and bought a dog for company.

5. I’ve never gone out and bought another dog and told my fiance about it when he was on his way home from work.

6. I’ve never laid down in someone’s front yard after finishing a bottle of wine in an hour.

7. I’ve never taken so much Midol to dull the pain that I taught a jitterbug lesson before a dance party and played Billy Joel’s “Only the Good Die Young” for a half hour.

8. I’ve never rolled down a flight of stairs in a building that had absolutely no right angles in college, gotten up and thought, “Will I be able to dance?”

9. I’ve never helped prep a meal and gotten the measurements wrong because all of the measurements are worn off of the measuring cups and I couldn’t tell which was which.

10. I’ve never been trying to reach something on the top shelf of the grocery store, had someone offer to help me get it and heard another person snicker about the situation as they walked by.

Yep I’ve never done any of this. I’m perfect. Haha NOT!

What are some things you’ve NEVER done? Post ’em. I want to know.

Sara