30 DAYS A VEGAN: WEEK 3

Day 15:

  • Breakfast: Avocado Toast topped with Pico de Gallo, Fruit Bowl, and Coffee
  • Lunch: Enchiladas with Sweet Potato, Quinoa, Black Beans, Corn, Green Chilies, and Kale
  • Dinner: Thin Crust Cheeseless Veggie Pizza & Salad
  • Snacks: Apples

Day 16:

  • Breakfast: Coffee with Almond Creamer
  • Lunch: Jalapeño Mushroom Tacos with Avocado and Cilantro

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  • Dinner: Breaking Vegan with a meal at Johnny Mantattan’s. This was a dinner with friends that was planned prior to deciding on this experiment. That being said, I didn’t have steak. After sharing some truffle fries with the table, I had a cup of the crab and mushroom soup followed by the special strawberry salad, sans goat cheese, and the Trout Almondine for my main entree. It was all delicious, but super rich, and I only was able to finish about 4 bites of my dinner before asking for a to-go box. Can’t wait to go back, as everything was amazing, including the staff and decor.

Day 17:

  • Breakfast: Coffee & Avocado Toast
  • Lunch: Veggie Burger from Osgood’s
  • Dinner: Hummus, Salsa, and Veggie Plate

Day 18:

  • Breakfast: Cherry Almond Chia Seed Pudding and Coffee
  • Lunch:  Jalapeño Mushroom Tacos with Avocado and Cilantro
  • Dinner: Grilled Mushroom & Zucchini Skewers, Asparagus, & Corn on the Cob
  • Snacks: Leftover Thin Crust Cheeseless Veggie Pizza

Day 19:

  • Breakfast: Avocado Toast and Grapes
  • Lunch: Spicy Mushroom, Eggplant, and Sweet Potato Stack with Quinoa and Baby Kale Salad

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  • Dinner: Vegetable Ragu over Crispy Polenta

Day 20:

  • Breakfast: Grande Coconut Milk Caramel Latte from Starbucks
  • Lunch: Greek Salad with Quinoa and Roasted Portabella Mushrooms

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  • Dinner: Sweet Potato, Quinoa, Black Beans, Corn, Green Chilies, and Kale Enchiladas

Day 21:

  • Breakfast: Steel Cut Oats with Hemp Seeds and Blackberries
  • Dinner: Aasparagus, Mushtoom, & Eggplant Stir-fry over Basmati Rice
  • Thoughts: The end of week 3. I have some great new recipes and combination, but I have found myself missing a few things that the omnivore diet has to offer. For example, on Monday I made some delicious looking skin-on chicken thighs for the rest of the family, and while I was easily able to take a pass on the meat itself, I really, really, REALLY wanted to tear into the crispy seasoned skin on top. Like, really bad. I resisted, but just barely.

Now, onto week 4!

30 Days A Vegan: Week 2

Day 8:

  • Breakfast: Trader Joe’s Frozen Steelcut Oatmeal with almond butter, bananas, raspberries, blueberries, and maple syrup and Coffee with Almond Milk Creamer
  • Lunch: Portabella Mushroom Slices with Penzey’s Bold Taco Seasoning and Quinoa with Kale
  • Dinner: Trader Joe’s Zucchini Fries, Portobellow Fries, Alexa Crinkle Fries, Sugar Snap Peas, Tomato Wedges, and Pita Bread with Spicy Basil Avocado Dipping Sauce
  • Snacks: See dinner menu above ^

Day 9:

  • Breakfast: PB&J Chia Seed Pudding and Coffee
  • Lunch: Jason’s Deli Salad Bar
  • Dinner: Enchiladas with Sweet Potato, Quinoa, Black Beans, Corn, Green Chilies, and Kale

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  • Snacks: Sweet Potato Chips with Salsa and Guacamole

Day 10:

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  • Lunch: Chipotle Black Bean Burger and Fries at Crafy Cow – This was our second trip to this local restaurant, and, while our first visit left us feeling underwhelmed, this trip was quite the opposite. Our server was fantastic, and OVER accommodated my dietary “needs”. So much so, that he brought my burger bunless, since he confirmed without request that the buns were not vegan. Also, and I know this is not vegan, but the housemade chicken tenders with rosemary coating looked AMAZING. I very much considered breaking my self-imposed dietary restraints to take a bite. Seriously, I will be ordering them as my meal on our next visit.
  • Dinner: Sendik’s Popcorn

Day 11:

  • Breakfast: Cherry Almond Chia Seed Pudding and Coffee
  • Lunch: Enchiladas with Sweet Potato, Quinoa, Black Beans, Corn, Green Chilies, and Kale and Sweet Potato Chips with Salsa
  • Dinner: Veggie Loaded Stir-Fry and Rice

Day 12:

  • Breakfast: Avocado Toast, Fruit Bowl, and Coffee
  • Lunch: Enchiladas with Sweet Potato, Quinoa, Black Beans, Corn, Green Chilies, and Kale and Sweet Potato Chips with Salsa
  • Dinner: Veggie Loaded Red Sauce with Pasta and Zoodles
  • Snacks: Apple

Day 13:

  • Breakfast:  Avocado Toast topped with Pico de Gallo, Fruit Bowl, and Coffee
  • Lunch: Enchiladas with Sweet Potato, Quinoa, Black Beans, Corn, Green Chilies, and Kale and Sweet Potato Chips with Salsa
  • Dinner: Leftover Veggie Stir-Fry and Cucumber Rolls
  • Snacks: Sendik’s Popcorn

Day 14:

  • Breakfast: Steel Cut Oats with Hemp Seeds and Blue Berries and coffee
  • Lunch: Vegetable Loaded Ragu Over Pan-Seared Polenta
  • Dinner: Popcorn & Wine … Lunch was very filling.🙂
  • Snacks: Apple
  • Thoughts: So, this really hasn’t been all that difficult, and I have thoughts on continuing past April. Maybe not at 100%, but all my changes thus far have been great choices, and there’s no reason not to continue. #ThingsINeverThoughtIWouldSay

Now, onto week 3!

Cherry Almond Chia Seed Pudding

Part of the fun of this experiment that is #VeganApril, is trying things I may not have otherwise, and finding new, and healthy, additions to my recipe catalog. One such addition was this recipe for a Peanut Butter and Jelly Chia Seet Pudding from Minimalist Baker.

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It was amazing. As soon as I tried it, I begin to think of different interpretations, which led to this Cherry Almond variety. Cherries and almonds are a natural pair, so I knew it would “work”, and the toasted almonds on top gave a nice crunch and change in texture. I had my first this morning, and am excited for a week’s worth of breakfasts that taste like dessert.

  

Ingredients

COMPOTE:
  • 1 cup (140 g) Frozen Cherries, thawed and chopped, with juice
  • 1 Tbsp (12 g) Chia Seeds
CHIA PUDDING:
  • 1 cup (240 ml) Unsweetened Plain Almond Milk
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) Light Coconut Milk
  • optional: 1 tsp Almond Extract
  • 1-2 Tbsp (15-30 ml) Maple Syrup (to taste)
  • 3 Tbsp (48 g) Natural Salted Almond Butter (creamy or crunchy)
  • 1/3 cup (63 g) Chia Seeds
  • Toasted Sliced Almonds for Topping (I used Trader Joe’s Dry Roasted Honey Sliced Almonds)

Instructions

  1. Warm cherries and juice in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until bubbling. Then lower heat to medium and cook for 2 minutes – stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add chia seeds. Stir to combine.
  2. Divide the compote between 3 to 5 serving dishes, and set in the refrigerator to chill.
  3. In the meantime, whisk together almond milk, coconut milk, almond butter, maple syrup, and almond extract, if using. Taste and adjust flavors as needed, adding more maple syrup for sweetness, or almond butter for saltiness.
  4. Add chia seeds and whisk to combine, and let set in fridge.
  5. Wait 10 minutes for the chia compote to cool. Then remove the chia pudding and compote from the refrigerator. Give the chia pudding a stir to redistribute the chia seeds, then divide between the three serving dishes right on top of the compote.
  6. Cover well and set in the refrigerator to chill for at least 1-2 hours (preferably overnight), or until chilled through and pudding-like in consistency.
  7. To serve, top with almond slices. Will keep covered in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

30 Days A Vegan: Week 1

Day 1:

  • Breakfast: Avocado Toast on Grain Bread and coffee with Califia Farms Almond Milk Creamer – If you’re looking for a non-dairy, low-fat, and/or low-calorie all natural creamer, I HIGHLY recommend this brand. I’ve had all 3 flavors, and they’re delicious. I started using them months ago, so this isn’t a vegan thing, it’s a delicous coffee thing.
  • Lunch: Pasta with Asparagus, Sun-dried Tomatoes, and Pesto, and Roast Sweet Potatoes, Mushrooms, and Broccolini – I realized after the fact that I inadvertently strayed from full vegan here, as the pesto contains Parmesan cheese. #RookieMistake
  • Dinner: Since it was #PizzaFriday, we ordered from Domino’s. I had a thin crust pizza with double mushroom, black olives, diced tomatoes, green pepper, and onions, and no cheese, and a mixed green salad with simple vinaigrette. – I know, I know, pizza without cheese? Is that really pizza? Call it a veggie flatbread if it makes you feel better, but it was delicious, and I didn’t miss the cheese at all. Seriously.
  • Snacks: Marcoa almonds while waiting for our pizza. Oh, and cocktails. Is it Friday night without a cocktail?
  • Thoughts: This was a rather easy day, and set me up for a good start. What I knew before this, and is even more evident now, is that this type of diet (definition a, b, or c, not d) will require more planning and prep than I’ve had to do previously. Really, not a bad thing at all, but something to take into consideration.

Day 2:

  • Breakfast: Coffee with Almond Milk Creamer
  • Lunch: Zucchini Grillini, no cheese, and Organic Vegetable Soup from Jason’s Deli – This was our first trip to a Jason’s, and we’re already excited to go back. The menu looked awesome, the salad bar was STOCKED with some great options and healthy grain salads to top your greens, and they have free ice cream. That’s right, FREE ICE CREAM. Of course, I couldn’t have any, but what a cool option available for young and old alike as an incentive to finish their meal.
  • Dinner: Portobello Tacos with Vegan Jalapeno Sauce – I’ve “warned” Jim we’d probably be enjoying a lot of Mexican food, as the easiest way to enjoy any vegetable is to wrap it in a tortilla and top with salsa. These were delicious, and my first experiment with cashew based sauces. Great flavor, but I wish I would have had time to soak the cashews longer, our errands that day took longer than expected, and added another jalapeno for kick.
  • Snacks: Chips, Salsa, and Guacamole and Spicy Grapefruit Margaritas – Tequila is vegan, right?
  • Thoughts: Again, I’m pretty early into this experiment, so it wasn’t too tough, but I did find myself wanting a cookie from the jar in the kitchen and ice cream during lunch, but it wasn’t too difficult to tell myself no. I also stocked up at Trader Joe’s on some staples for future meals, as well as some treats such as Honey Roasted Almond slices for salads and snacking, as well their Frozen Coconut Dessert With Chocolate, which basically just tasted like delicious chocolate ice cream with a faint hint of coconut. Highly recommend it to anyone and everyone.

Day 3:

  • Breakfast: Leftover Portobello Tacos with Jalapeno Sauce and Coffee with Almond Milk Creamer
  • Lunch: Leftover pizza from Friday and veggie sandwich from Saturday
  • Dinner: Snack plate of veggies, hummus, and pita chips
  • Snacks: Prosecco🙂
  • Thoughts: Anything is doable when it’s enjoyed with bubbles!

Day 4:

  • Breakfast: Peanut Butter & Jelly Chia Pudding, Avocado Toast, and Coffee
  • Lunch: Snack plate of veggies, hummus, and pita chips
  • Dinner: Sautéed mushroom, asparagus, and onions with jalapeños, corn, and kale over quinoa topped with jalapeño cashew sauce
  • Snacks: Republic of Tea’s Coconut Cocoa Tea with Coconut Milk
  • Thoughts: The struggle was real today. I was on my own with the kids for dinner, and I had the idea to go to Culver’s to get take-out. I could have a veggie burger and sweet potato fries, right? Wrong! The veggie burgers contained cheese. Luckily I had looked it up before getting into line. My alternate dinner was good, but I was really hoping for some sweet potato fries. In other news, that PB&J Chia Pudding was AMAZING. Seriously, so, so good. And easy too. I think it took me all of 10 minutes to mix it up into 5 servings for some quick weekday breakfasts. Can’t wait to try other flavor combinations. <runs off to google some more chia pudding recipes before bed>

Day 5:

  • Breakfast: Caramel Latte with Coconut Milk & Fruit Cup from Starbucks
  • Lunch: Panera’s Mediterranean Quinoa Salad with almonds
  • Dinner:  Out with a Friend for Mexican: DIEZ VECES MÁS LOCO VEGETARIANO: Zucchini, red peppers, green peppers, carrots, tomato, red onion, mushrooms, broccoli, with Rice and Beans … and chips, salsa, and table-side guacamole. Obviously.
  • Snacks: n/a … which lead to the massive amounts of chips and salsa consumed at dinner

Day 6:

  • Breakfast: PB&J Chia Seed Pudding and Coffee with Almond Milk Creamer
  • Lunch: Mediterranean Salad from Potbelly with no chicken or cheese
  • Dinner: Vegetable Sushi Rolls with Sesame Miso Kale Salad
  • Snacks: Popcorn and Rosé
  • Thoughts: Real talk. This evening I sniffed the cookie jar like I was part vacuum, but I resisted a bite of the delicious smelling butter and egg filled baked goods.

Day 7:

  • Breakfast: Trader Joe’s Frozen Steelcut Oatmeal with bananas, cinnamon, and brown sugar and Coffee with Almond Milk Creamer
  • Lunch: Leftover Veggie Fajitas with Sweet Potato Chips, Guacamole, and Salsa
  • Dinner: Veggie Sub on Wheat from Subway and a Riverwest Stein from Lakefront Brewery
  • Snacks: n/a
  • Thoughts: Thus ends week 1. Overall, there were difficult parts, but it was easier than I expected. That being said, it was an odd week for our family, without as many family dinners as we usually have, i.e. 6 or 7 rather than 2. Next week should be more of a challenge, as we’re back to the usual routine, and my goal in all of this is to share as little resemblance as possible with a short order cook. Basically, I want my meals to parallel those of the rest of the family, with as few changes as possible to make mine vegan.

 

Now, onto week 2!

30 Days A Vegan

vegan

play

noun veg·an \ˈvē-gən also ˈvā- also ˈve-jən or -ˌjan\
Popularity: Top 20% of words

Simple Definition of vegan

  • : a person who does not eat any food that comes from animals and who often also does not use animal products (such as leather)

 


Yes, I’m going there. For no reason other than seeing if I can, I am challenging myself to go vegan for the month of April, #VeganApril .

Okay, I’ll admit that’s not entirely true. There are other reasons such as culinary creativity, nutrition, and overall health. To be very, very clear though, I’m not looking at this as a weight thing. Now would I like to lose a pound or 10? Sure, but that’s not my reasoning here. Also, don’t look forward to some sort of going vegan sale sign pointing to my closet. I will not be going full force and giving away my shoes and handbags.

As a individual and family, I feel that we eat rather healthy and balanced, but I want to see what other ways there are to increase vegetable intake within our meals, and reduce or eliminate meat. This second part is tough given our mid-western upbringing focused on the idea that all meals should center around and/or at least contain meat in some form. Jim has very clearly stated to “not feed [him] any vegan crap”, which I plan to respect, as I’ll only feed him vegan meals that are tested as delicious, and don’t want to force my choice for the month on anyone who isn’t as excited about this as I am. I am excited though. As I’ve gotten closer to “V Day”, I have been falling down rabbit holes of blog links and recipes that I am finding are pointing to the fact that the elimination of animal products is more inspiring than it is limiting. Here’s hoping I feel the same way on day 17!

So, there you have it. I will be posting weekly updates on what I ate, recipes I’ve enjoyed, and my thoughts around what’s been easy, challenging, and how I’m feeling this experience is impacting my health and family mealtimes. Also, if you’re interesting in what I may be making in the upcoming weeks, please feel free to checkout my Vegan Pinterest Board for ideas and inspiration.

Wish me luck!

Meatballs & Sauce

I have been making these meatballs and sauce for a few years. The recipe below is loosely based on this recipe from Brown Eyed Baker. That being said, I figured it was about time I wrote it down to ensure I didn’t screw it up next time I made a batch. This makes a LARGE batch of both meatballs and sauce that I portion into quart sized ziplock bags and freeze for quick dinners. How many bags will depend on what dinner looks like for your family. I usually plan 6 meatballs for our family and portion accordingly.

INGREDIENTS:

  • Homemade Spaghetti Sauce:
    • 1/4 cup Olive Oil
    • 2 large sweet Onions, chopped
    • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
    • 106 oz can Italian Peeled Tomatoes (4 28 oz cans if you’re not shopping at Costco)
    • 3 Tbsp dried Parsley
    • 1 Tbsp dried Basil
    • Water from rinsing extra sauce and puree from inside of cans
    • 3 Tbsp Salt
    • 1/2 cup Sugar
    • 1/2 tsp Crushed Red Pepper
  • Italian Meatballs:
    • 2 lbs Ground Beef
    • 2 lbs Pork Sausage
    • 4 Eggs
    • 1 Tbsp dried Italian parsley
    • 1 Tbsp Pasta Sprinkle
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 2 cups Italian bread crumbs, divided
    • 2 cups grated Romano cheese
    • 1 cup Milk
    • 1 tsp Salt
    • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
    • 1/2 tsp Crushed Red Pepper
    • 1 tsp Pepper

DIRECTIONS:

  • Sauce:
    1. Saute onion and garlic in olive oil over medium-low heat until onion is tender.
    2. Add tomato\es, parsley, basil, water, salt, and sugar.
    3. Stir and lower heat to a slow simmer. Using and immersion blender, puree tomatoes into a sauce.
    4. This best if it’s left to simmer for at least 2 hours.
  • Meatballs:
    1. Preheat oven to 450.
    2. Combine 1 cup of bread crumbs with milk and let soak for 10 minutes. Combine with all remaining ingredients. You can do this by hand or with large stand mixture, being careful not to over-mix.
    3. shape into balls. I use a medium sized scoop from Crate and Barrel.
    4. Cook for 20 minutes and then add to sauce to finish cooking. I prefer this method, as it gives extra flavor to both the meatballs and sauce.
    5. If you want to cook them the whole way in the oven, turn down head to 350 cook for 20 minutes, depending on size.
    6. I will also say I’ve been known to broil the meatballs, for either method, for 5 minutes to get them nice and brown before finishing.