Sunday, 28 April 2013

Life lessons and food adventures


My vegan quest ended almost exactly a month ago. I’m not sure why I haven’t written about it yet. Perhaps because I was embarrassed at just how bad a vegan I was? Anyone can testify to this. It was appalling. And while I don’t feel that I should make excuses (after all, I was simply giving it a go), I will say that it’s a hard thing to keep up when the people you’re around aren’t vegan. Especially when you’re at home and eating family meals… But, as I said, I don’t need to excuse myself, so this isn’t going to be a blog about how and why I went wrong. Instead, I want to share a few things that I learned on the way.

Nutritional yeast is a great cheese substitute. In my initial vegan post I put links to a whole bunch of recipes that I wanted to try out, and one of these was vegan mac’n’cheese. I do love mac’n’cheese, but I rarely have cheese in the house so it isn’t something I normally make. Nutritional yeast, however, (a) doesn’t go solid and mouldy like cheese does, and (b) isn’t tempting to eat the entire lot in one sitting, so it economically viable for me to buy... Sorted. I spied some in Tullivers, a shop in York that stocks a lot of vegan and health food produce, bought it, and made a variation of this recipe.  I made a white sauce from dairy-free butter and almond milk, and then added the yeast and some mustard (our food processor is quite small and I was scared that the cashews would break it! I’ll definitely try the full recipe once I’m home). If you have all the spices I would definitely recommend putting them all in, but a simplified version works just as well. I’m not sure how much yeast I added, just enough that it tasted cheesy! I had the sauce with mixed vegetables rather than pasta, but it would work with almost any food. I also chuck the nutritional yeast into pretty much everything I make. If you mix it in whilst the food is hot it gives it a great nutty taste.

Homemade nut butter is the food of the gods. I have a massive thing for peanut butter: I will eat the entire jar in ten minutes if you ask me to. I love it. I’ve already posted my attempt at making almond butter, which was amazing. I also made my own peanut butter at home, since the blender there is a bit more sturdy than our little one. Although most shop-bought peanut butter doesn’t have many unnatural ingredients in it, it does have extra salt and sugar. Once you try homemade you’ll realise that although there is a slight difference in taste, the salt and sugar definitely aren’t necessary. If you don’t have the time to make your own, health food shops and vegan shops often sell all natural nut butters. I used Meridian peanut butter from Holland and Barrett to make granola bars last week and it was just as good as homemade.

3. Wholegrains aren't at all boring, or hard to find. In a bid to get protein whilst eating vegan (ok, so this wasn’t actually a problem since I ate meat and dairy anyway, but let’s just gloss over that for now) I did a bit of research and found that wholegrain foods contain a lot of protein. So far, so good. But where to find these wholegrains? I picked up bits and pieces of information from various places, but this page covers it all quite nicely. Couscous featured a lot in my lunch choices, but since that’s basically just ground-up pasta I’ve replaced it with millet, bulgur wheat, quinoa, spelt pasta and lentils. It makes for much more interesting lunches than just coucous, and a few of those I had no idea existed.


Coincidentally, or perhaps not, I’m being a much better pseudo-vegan now that I’m not actually trying to. I realised that as soon as I couldn’t have certain things, I suddenly wanted them. I’m definitely not fully vegan, but vegetarianism is going pretty well: in the last three weeks I’ve had one chicken sandwich, one tuna sandwich, and one bacon butty. Most of the time the thought of eating meat is actually repulsive to me. I think I’ll just take this one step at a time.  

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