Saturday, July 17, 2010

Change in Perspective

During this last break from blogging, I have encountered some perspectives and encouragement on my ideas of food. I may be repeating myself, but please bear with me.

I've read several books about vegetarianism and veganism in the past, and I own several cookbooks on the subject. I tried a vegan diet, in the pop culture meaning of eating to lose weight, about a year and a half ago, but it didn't last long. I approached it with an attitude of disgust with commercial farming and a want to lose extra weight. But I wasn't equipped with the tools to make it work past the first couple of days.

Growing up, I learned to cook in a way that almost every dish starts with some animal product. For example, most of the vegetables recipes start with "Fry some bacon" or end with "Top with butter." Even salad needed bacon bits, ranch dressing, and cheese. So, to go from that mindset to eating without any animal product was a shock to say the least.

Then a few a few months ago, a friend of mine introduced me to Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. Since I'm always interested in reading about nutrition and food from reputable sources, I checked it out. In an unscientific nutshell, Dr. Fuhrman uses nutritive value of calories to control weight. For example, 100 calories of olive oil, chicken breast, and salad are very different amounts of food. The oil is about 1 tablespoon, the chicken is about a half cup, and salad is many cups. Thus, if watching your calories, you can eat a more salad than olive oil and stay under your limit. This is a very simplistic explanation and he goes into nutrition needs. Then, he includes some cooking info and recipes to help get you started, too.

After reading it, I was re-energized to give it another go. I discussed it with my husband because he has a say in how our family eats and, also, because he is my best friend and closest advisor. He agreed that we could be eating healthier and that he would support the effort. We also agreed that our toddler did not need to lose any weight and that we would ensure he ate plenty of calories to help him grow properly and healthfully. We also agreed, that while I choose adhere to this eating regimen, when we ate out, I would not give him a hard time for eating as he wished. It helps enormously to have his buy-in. And he's remained very supportive.

As noted, I have some veg cook books that I've used in the past, and I've used them with some success. However, whilst rambling in the bookstore one day, probably seeking something totally unrelated, I found myself in the cookbook section. I picked up a copy of Vegan on the Cheap by Robin Robertson and took it home. This was my next step forward. Her approach is very everyday eating instead of dinner party gourmet. She provides recipes, alternatives and cost breakdowns for sometimes costly store-bought veg staples, like vegetable stock, seitan, hummus, beans, sun-dried tomatoes, and others and then the recipes for how to use them, along with tips on efficient use of your food budget.

Then, I found by SusanV. Another step forward. She uses a sensible everyday approach as well. Her writing is lovely, recipes are clear, easy to follow and yummy, and the pictures are appetizing.

So, as I've taken these steps forward, we've eaten many more veg meals at home. My husband and I focus more on salad as entree for the weight loss benefit. But I've tried several recipes (alas, I've not taken pix or blogged about them, but I'll try to be better going forward) that we've enjoyed and deemed repeaters. There were even a couple of recipes that my husband was a little surprised when he remembered there was no meat involved. And, I've adjusted to eating in this way. I love it. Because my palate has adjusted, I am better able to remind myself that I am unhappy with the state of commercial food production in this country. I am better able to think about the healthy goals I have. I don't have the same frustration of wanting to eat vegan and feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of providing the meal to do so.

In our area, there are not a lot of dining out options while keeping a vegan or even vegetarian diet. Our favorite little diner for Sunday brunch is a slightly reformed greasy spoon kind of place. I usually have a dinner salad with salsa for dressing and a baked potato, no butter please. When feeling giddy, I steal a few fries from one of the boys' plates. Although, the other day they had a tomato Florentine soup that appeared to be at least vegetarian. And was tasty. The waitress was unsure of its ingredients and not so helpful as to find out. I'm to the point now that I would rather go into my kitchen at 5:15 PM and put together something dinner than go out to have a plate of iceberg and a potato. It helps that it's summer and our farmers' market is in full swing.

One "recipe" of note, I'll call it Magic Tomato Sauce. The other evening I needed a quick supper and hadn't planned ahead. I found a package of whole wheat gnocchi (a fave of the family!), a bottle of tomato basil pasta sauce, fresh broccoli and Brussels sprouts that needed to be cooked right away, a can of navy beans and a small can of chopped black olives. I almost always have salad ingredients on hand. I steamed the veggies, rinsed and drained the beans, chopped part of the broccoli, and cooked the gnocchi. I added the chopped broccoli, part of the beans, and some of the olives to about half the pasta sauce then served it with the gnocchi. Served salad and Brussels sprouts on the side. My son loves broccoli but normally will not try Brussels Sprouts. That night, out of the blue, he announced he would try the sprouts, which he did, and then proclaimed that he liked them and wanted more. (Victory!) Overall, the dinner was great. Had some left over sauce, which went into the fridge. Next day it was filler for a veg Not-Quesadilla (no cheese) along with some chopped onion and peppers. Delish. The following day my mom, son and I had it on a great wheat roll as part of a sub sandwich along with sliced mushrooms, chopped peppers, and onions. It reminded me of a Parmesan-style sandwich. In hindsight, should have sprinkled on some nutritional yeast for a little cheesy flavor. Anyhoo, another yummy incarnation. Three from one, just like magic.

I have a few recipes and projects in the pipeline. I'll be sure to take the pix and blog. I promise to be back soon.


  1. This is good info. Has it helped to lose weight? I have a hard time eating healthfully all the time. I do pretty well, but then we slide back down a bit. Hmmmm...thinking about reading that book.

  2. It has been helpful. I've lost about 10 pounds now, and that's without much of the excercise I *intend* to do. Overall, I feel healthier though. I'm actually finding it easier to eat this way the more I do it. I'm even losing my taste for meat. The only thing I find an occasional struggle with is cheese and seafood/fish, but mostly, it's no problem.

  3. Yay! Congrats! Did you get a Vita-Mix?

  4. Actually, no. Ive just been going with fat-free vegan and none fo the smoothies. Lots of water though.