Plant Based or Vegan?

Apparently these are not the same thing, and to make it a little more confusing, it’s not even like the square-rectangle thing, where all squares are rectangles but not all rectangles are squares. You don’t have to be plant based to be vegan and you also don’t have to be vegan to be plant based.

Wait, what?

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There’s a whole lot that goes into answering why, but long story short, veganism isn’t just about what you eat and that’s really the big difference. Usually plant based foods are suitable for vegans, but someone who follows a plant based diet might not specifically avoid leather products, for instance. Also, on the flip side, you can be vegan and eat nothing but Oreos, potato chips, and frozen pre-made meals, none of which would be considered plant based.

I’ve tried reading about eating a plant based diet, and someone please correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like the main feature in plant based eating is to avoid highly processed foods. Instead, you eat things like rice, beans, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. I’ve seen some sources say that you can include meat and dairy, but you should minimize it, and others that say that stuff is blacklisted all together.

What I’d add based on what I’ve read is that, from a health perspective, being both plant based and vegan seems like the best course of action. So that’s what I’m trying to do this time around.

This is in part because who doesn’t want to be healthier, and also in part because science experiment. In a few months, I’ll have my annual wellness exam done and I’m curious to see the effects, not just on my weight, but also on my cholesterol and all that other stuff they’ll test.

Step one here is stop drinking pop. I’ve been trying really hard lately to limit myself to one can a day, and I fail at that horribly after a week or two every single time. I’m a fat chick with an eating disorder and zero self-restraint, so the whole “everything in moderation” is literally impossible for me.

Step two is what the crap to eat? Well, for lunch today, I had a burrito bowl with brown rice, black beans, onions, tomatoes, cilantro, roasted red peppers, salsa, hot sauce, and a little bit of vegan cheddar shreds and vegan sour cream. Admittedly, those last two things are highly processed and could’ve easily been left out. However, they were expensive and I don’t want to throw them away. I may’ve jumped cold-turkey (pardon the expression) into veganism, but I don’t think I can do that with plant based.

I also threw a bunch of stuff into my crockpot to have chili later, and while I still have some brown rice in the fridge to go with it, I’ll likely grab some of the cheddar and sour cream as well.

At least it’s not Oreos and chips, right? One meal at a time…

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Getting Cheesy!

Firstly, seitan is still gross. I still haven’t tried the breakfast sausage, but I may do that in the morning. The leftover simmered seitan was every bit as icky as the fresh-from-the-crockpot simmered seitan. (Sorry to lovers of all things wheat gluten.)

Secondly, I made some homemade chocolate and also some vegan sloppy Joes today.

Both were yummy, but that’s not what I want to talk about this evening. I want to talk about success. And about cheese. I want to talk about cheesy success!

This morning for breakfast, I had some tofu scramble, because I just can’t seem to get enough of that stuff. But, more importantly, I also had a hashbrown.

What does that have to do with cheese, you ask? I’m getting to it. Patience, precious!

See, I had some red skin potatoes that were starting to get soft, so I knew I needed to do something with them. Truth be told, I’ve known that for days, but it’s been nearly 90 degrees all week and I don’t have central air, so I haven’t done much cooking. This morning though, I faithfully peeled those potatoes, grated them, soaked them in water to remove the starch, and then mixed in a little flour and vegan mozzarella, and then threw it all in a skillet.

A hashbrown was born!

OK, so you all know how I usually feel about vegan cheese. This was really good though! Apparently I do enjoy the taste of crispy vegan mozzarella. I was so surprised by this, I almost didn’t know what to do with myself. Other than eat my hashbrown, that is. With more delight even than I displayed with the tofu!

Not only was this cheese attempt a success, but I found a suitable replacement for the feta cheese in my couscous salad.

Tofu!

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I’ve mentioned previously that feta cheese is the highlight of this particular form of couscous. However, if you dice up your tofu and marinate it in lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and garlic, it has a similar taste to feta.

Now, I’ll readily admit that it doesn’t have the creamy, tangy deliciousness that feta has, but the texture is pretty close and the rest of the ingredients of this dish are enough to make you forget all about feta.

In addition to the cooked couscous itself (and the marinated tofu of course), I added, cucumber, grape tomatoes, scallions, roasted red peppers, green olives, lemon juice, and olive oil.

It’s so good and I’m so happy I have leftovers to last for a couple of days.

(I really should make a recipes page. I just need to find the time. And, you know, impetus.)

Either way, NOM NOM NOM!

The Cheese and the Feels

I had a dream that I very surreptitiously visited a McDonald’s out of town, where I was certain I wouldn’t run into anyone who knew I was now a vegan. During this illicit, illusionary visit, I ordered a Big Mac and fries. I was so excited that I could barely wait to sink my teeth into this delicious mound of unhealthy, abused cow flesh. At the same time, I felt so guilty. I hesitated. I reminded myself that it’s not right that a cow should die just to feed my food addiction.

I took a bite anyways. I chewed once, twice. It tasted awful and I spit it out. Surely, it was just that bite. It was mostly bread anyways. I knew the second bite would be as delicious as I remembered. But it wasn’t. It tasted like chemicals and death. I spit it out and felt both relieved and disappointed at the same time.

From there, it got weird. Something about customers being served grilled cheese sandwiches in stainless steal bowls of ice water and being largely dissatisfied with the quality thereof, but the first part of that dream really stuck with me. I haven’t eaten an animal in nearly three weeks now (although I’ve inadvertently eaten milk products twice), and what I miss the most isn’t meat.

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It’s still cheese.

I miss ooey-gooey, savory, sharp, tangy cheese, and I don’t know why I’m not having dreams about that instead. I signed a petition yesterday to try to get Pizza Hut to offer vegan cheese, out of the hope that a large national chain of pizza purveyors can get access to some highly processed, largely artificial, restaurant-quality vegan cheese that actually tastes good. If so, I will gladly pay their obscene prices for their subpar pizza and be contended.

The really horrible part is that every time I get to the point where I tell myself that screw it, I’m just going to be vegan except for cheese, a vegan friend of mine posts a video on Facebook of a baby cow being forcibly dragged from its mother while both animals struggle in vain to reach one another again, bleating and crying and panicking the whole time.

It’s heart-wrenching, and is my love for cheese really enough to justify that?

Never mind the environmental consequences of the dairy industry, never mind the dietary consequences of consuming dairy products, and even never mind the cruelty inherent in the veal industry, which is propagated almost entirely by the dairy industry–is smoked gouda or sharp cheddar or fresh mozzarella really worth that kind of pain, the pain of having your baby or your mother ripped from you?

I’m not even a mom–in fact am vehemently against the idea of ever becoming one–and the answer is no.

Doubts and Assurances.

Brace yourselves; it’s gonna be a long one! It’s been a rough and tumble couple of vegan days over here.

Let’s start with Friday. Friday was a really good day, actually. It was my last day of having to get up early and go into the office, and the bank (I work for a bank, by the way) was cool enough to buy us all lunch. Now, I was super scared that “lunch” was going to mean pizza that I could stare forlornly at but not eat, but I was wrong.

Sidenote: I had decided early on not to mention my new dietary preferences because I didn’t want everyone to have to accommodate me.

What they ended up doing was letting us order whatever we wanted at Noodles & Company so I got Japanese Pan Noodles with Seasoned Tofu.

Another sidenote: I’m beginning to like tofu. I was certain I could never get past the texture. Sometimes it’s good to be wrong!

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There were a few good natured jokes made about the fact that someone was eating tofu, but it was tasty. Their loss! Friday continued being good even after that because we all got an extended lunch which I used to take a walk around the city. I even lucked out and the sun was out the whole time!

I actually love Pittsburgh, even though I still prefer to work from home. Nothing beats listening to music of your choice while you work, while wearing yoga pants and a hoodie.  I do miss being able to take scenic walks like this on my lunch break. It’s a trade off.

After work, I sat in rush hour traffic for the last time (for awhile anyways) and then came home and made vegan poutine. I was a little scarred of what vegan gravy would be like, but it was actually really good.

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Sidenote Again: Vegan cheese is still gross. Next time I’m going to leave the cheese out. More on that later.

Moving on to Saturday, I followed through on my plan to drag my boyfriend to a vegan restaurant, so after I finished working my overtime shift, we headed out to Loving Hut for their Saturday vegan buffet.

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This food made me love being a vegan. I literally don’t have enough words for how freaking delicious all of it was. (The boyfriend didn’t like much of it, but even he went back for seconds on the seitan pepper steak.)

Now, let’s talk about Sunday. Sunday was not a good day to be a vegan.

Having finally sampled seitan and discovering how versatile and delicious it can be, I decided to try making it. Twice, even.

I failed horribly both times. My first attempt was simmered seitan from one of the cook books I bought. It turned into inedible meat jelly. I think I didn’t knead it enough. The second time, I tried baking it from a recipe I found online. This time, the texture was closer to correct, but it wasn’t good at all.

Along with that seitan experiment, I attempted a version of vegan mac and cheese. It was also inedibly bad. Remember what I said about how I hate to waste food? Both seitan attempts and the vegan mac and cheese went straight in the garbage. (Also, an attempt at a vegan “cheezee” sauce from earlier in the day went straight in the garbage as well.)

Disclaimer: I have cooked long enough to know that not all recipes are winners. I would even go one further and say that sometimes you try something new and it fails so horribly that it ruins you for that particular food item for awhile.

I know seitan can be yummy. I just might not have that skill set and that makes me a little sad. The cheese thing is killing me though. I love cheese. I miss cheese. And I have yet to try a vegan alternative or substitute or creative hybrid that is not terrible.

I’ll be perfectly honest here. I sulked most of the night after these failed cooking attempts and wondered why I even thought I could do this vegan thing. I wanted to quit. I was close to quitting.

My boyfriend went to Hardee’s and came back with a bacon cheeseburger and a chicken sandwich and it just smelled so good. I watched him eat them while I forlornly nibbled the fries I asked him to get me, and  I was just so close to jumping in the car and coming back with a burger and chicken sandwich of my own.

I didn’t though. I told myself it wasn’t the first time I’d made a bad recipe and that there were other things I had yet to try.

This morning I knew I needed a good breakfast to get my head back in the game. Something vegan and tasty that would make me feel better. So I made a waffle with a banana in place of the egg, used peanut butter as my topping, and I decided to try some of the “Gimme Lean” (Haha!) vegan breakfast sausage I dubiously bought a week ago.

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I think it’s safe to say that I’m back in the saddle again. The sausage was better than I expected and at least I know I can buy seitan products even if I never acquire the skill to make it. I still don’t know what I’m going to do about the cheese thing, but at least I no longer feel hopeless about it.

Pretty Sure I Broke a Rule

Let me just preface this by saying I didn’t eat anything that came from an animal.

I’ve still been chugging along, eating leftover couscous and experimenting with something called Somen noodles (which are remarkably similar to angel hair pasta when cooked).

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Sometime this weekend, I plan to make seitan since I can’t find it at any store I’ve gone to, even the ones that sell vegan products. Plus, a coworker gave me a recipe for vegan chocolate chip cookies and I do love me some chocolate chip cookies.

How, then, did I break a rule? Well, I didn’t eat meat, but I cooked meat. Is that bad? I don’t know.

See, I’m in school part time and I needed a proctor for my World Lit exam, and my boyfriend’s mother was cool enough to do it. As a thank you, I offered to cook her dinner. She’s not a vegan, is a fairly picky eater, and I know she likes chicken. Also, since I still have a freezer with various animal parts in it, at least it didn’t go to waste.

I might be playing around with a cruelty-free lifestyle, but I still hate wasting food. It’s my grandmother’s fault.

I still have butter in the fridge too, so I made a butter sauce (with thyme and garlic) to drizzle on the chicken and the brown rice and red peppers that went with it. It looked good. It smelled good. I’m told it was good, and I very much wanted to have some.

But I didn’t.

I watched her eat, lied and said that I already had, and then when she left a few hours later, I heated up some leftover Somen noodles with edamame and peanut sauce. It was also good.