Struggles of a Wannabe Vegan

To mark my anniversary of being a vegetarian I’m dedicating the next two weeks to eating a vegan diet. I’m hoping to get a taste of how challenging it really is and see if I can confirm any of the rumoured health benefits it may bring. I stumbled across a vegan diet plan on PETA’s website and it seemed like a great idea but, in an attempt to draw in as many followers as possible, it relies heavily on pre-packed and processed foods, numerous meat replacements and products which aren’t available in the UK. The plan doesn’t entirely appeal to me, so rather than follow it to the letter, I shall be using it as a guide, dipping into some alternative recipes, trying out the interesting vegan products available where I live and testing ingredient replacements. Click this link if you’d like a copy of the two-week plan or animal-free recipe ideas. Also, I’d love to hear your tips and advice so don’t be shy!

Preparation is key.

Sunday afternoon was a day for shopping. I planned a few meals for the week and took my massive shopping list to the high street. The local supermarket was great for topping up on staple items, the green grocers for a back-crippling amount of fruit and veg and then off to Planet Organic for more specialist items. I feel it’s rather important to say how helpful the staff at Planet Organic were, especially when choosing between products and deciphering a few of the truly mystical products.

As is often stated about a veganism, I found stocking up quite expensive. I only bought a small amount of packaged foods and still seemed to clock up a whopper of a bill on little treats like eggless mayonnaise, dairy-free cheese and tofu. It is rather pleasing to see my entire fridge, freezer and counter top full of fresh, colourful produce.

Breakfast: Scrambled Tofu

I don’t usually eat in the mornings but felt that, in the spirit of experimenting, a hearty start to the day was required. I really enjoy a perfectly poached egg on toast, so used tofu to create a dish as close as possible to this gem.

diced tofu and veg ready for the pan

I crumbled a third of a block of firm tofu into a pan with olive oil, garlic and spring onions, nicely crisped up, tomato chunks thrown in with a liberal shake of paprika, chilli and basil.

sautéing in olive oil, with lots of spice hence the colour change

As a last-minute addition, I decided to add chopped up fake ham and slopped the lot over a toasted pita. It was delicious!

scrumptious!

I was quite surprised at how good a substitute the tofu was, although slightly lacking in flavour, but the texture was great and the fake ham added a lovely smokiness.  If you’re going to try this, using braised or marinated tofu may work better and don’t hold back on the big flavours.

Lunch: Roasted Butternut Squash with Boiled Rice

tender butternut squash, roasted with rosemary and cayenne pepper

I prepared this the evening before to take to work. I slow roasted the squash with olive oil, cayenne pepper and rosemary and boiled up some basmati rice. When finished, I added a small slosh of reduced salt soy sauce to the squash and sat it atop the rice with some diced green peppers for crunch. image

It was really simple to do and filling. Plus, I now have a lot left over if I’m caught short.

Dinner: Vegetable Pastries and Salad

During my trek of the local food stores I was really surprised to discover some foods which are ‘accidentally vegan’ and some innocent-looking foods which are not. In the former camp was ready-to-roll pastry. I’m not much of a whizz at making pastry but found that the Just-Roll Light Shortcrust pastry contains no dairy at all, so I couldn’t resist. After getting in from work the last thing I wanted to do was spend the next two hours cooking or searching for a suitable recipe, so I grabbed the pastry, divided it into small squares and put a thin layer of passata on each; chopped up some red onion, yellow peppers, green olives and fresh tomatoes and put them on top.

single portion-sized pastry parcels

The pastry was glazed with soya milk* and put on a low heat for 20 minutes. image

They turned out pretty good. The veggies were soft and the pastry had bite. Added a small spinach and rocket salad on the side and finished. *The soya milk glaze didn’t make a jot of difference, but was preferable to oil. Will try melted margarine next time.

Snacks: Fruit

Today was a busy one and there was little time for snacking. I had a banana and two plums at work to tackle the afternoon low, and no nibbles left for the rest of the day. In future, I will definitely be taking more snacking items to work. It’s hard to walk past easy, convenient foods if you know your next munch could be a long way off, especially if you’re feeling an energy slump.

Verdict: positive start

I’m pleased with my first day of eating vegan and, although I felt hungry and tired at unexpected times, this is probably down to my conscious effort to be more aware of my food intake. Besides, it’s Monday!

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