Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Meal Plan Review: 7 Day Meal Plans from Happy Herbivore

Not long after I decided to give up eating stuff with a face, I found the Happy Herbivore website. I cannot for the life of me remember how I stumbled upon this site, but I believe it was during a Forks Over Knives search. Maybe.

Regardless, this site has become an invaluable resource to me as I make the transition from junk food junkie to clean eating machine (to be).  There is a blog, numerous recipes and the option to purchase a meal plan for either an individual or a family of four.  In addition, Lindsay Nixon has authored two cookbooks: The Happy Herbivore and The Everyday Happy Herbivore. I have purchased both and will give a review after I've had a chance to make some of the recipes and read them more thoroughly.

But I have tried two weeks worth of meal plans so far.  The first week, I purchased the individual plan and the second week, I tried the family plan.  The plans are well thought out, with a shopping list and gluten-free options included. Additionally, since we are right smack in the middle of another scorching summer, the recipes require only minimal use of the oven which is a nice touch and the ingredients have been relatively easy to find.  Most can be found at any grocery store with only a few requiring a trip to a health food store. And the recipes, for the most part, are amazing!  I have tried some things that I would have never before considered eating, and in doing so, have found some new favorite foods (hello avocado) and types of foods that I have never tried, such as Thai and Indian.

Strawberry Pancakes
E2's Beans and Rice

My new favorite sandwich!

Rajma Masala

Just a sampling of some of the really wonderful recipes that I have made using the menu plans. 

**Disclaimer: I am not, nor do I claim to be, nor hope to be a professional photographer.  Not now and not someday.  All of these pictures were taken using my iPhone.  Because that's how I roll.  Actually, I'm too ADD to learn how to use my DSLR camera, so I just use my phone.  I'm lazy.

My only complaint (and it is not really a complaint, per se, just a personal preference) is that almost everything is a one dish meal.  Very few meals have a main entree with a side and that can get a little redundant.  And the ones that do include a side, all seem to consist of sweet potatoes.  Which are not my favorite, but I'm actually starting to develop a taste for them.  Another downside is the price which is $5 per week which I find to be a little steep considering that the last menu plan that I used, Menus 4 Moms, was $7.95 per month.  Also, sometimes a recipe calls for something like baked tofu.  Well, if you are like me, you have never even eaten tofu before much less actually baked it.  So, some further clarification on those kinds of issues would be appreciated.

All things considered, I would whole-heartedly recommend The Happy Herbivore's meal plans, especially to somebody who is new to a plant based diet.  I should also mention that Lindsay does not include any extra fats or oils in any of her recipes so that makes them even healthier.  But you definitely don't miss them because the food is just that good and flavorful.  So, if you are new to this vegan/plant based stuff, as am I, and you would like some ideas and guidance to help you along, try Lindsay S. Nixon's 7 Day Meal Plans.

**Another Disclaimer:  This post consists solely of my personal, in no way professional, opinion.   Lindsay S. Nixon has no idea that I, or this blog, even exists.  Just like everybody else in the world.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Product Review: Gardein Madarin Orange Crispy Chicken

In giving some thought to my last post in which I stated that I felt like I was missing something since adopted a vegan diet, I supposed that maybe it was the feel and savoriness of meat.  So I went in search of a meat replacement product to try and ease my transition from omnivore to herbivore.  What I found in the freezer of my local grocery story was Gardein Mandarin Orange Crispy Chicken. I remember reading a favorable review of Gardein products somewhere, so I thought that I would give it a shot. 

I prepared the not-chicken as per the directions on the package by frying it a pan with just a bit of oil until it was warmed through and crispy. I tossed it with the enclosed sauce packet and served it over some stir-fried vegetables and a bit of soy sauce.

It was delicious.  My oldest daughter, who is twenty and trying to eliminate animal protein from her diet as well, repeatedly denied that this could not be real chicken.  There was a sufficient amount to feed me, my daughter and my eleven year old son, who absolutely could not believe that this was not chicken either. 

So, while I prefer to eat not eat heavily processed foods, I think that when I get a specific craving, I will try and satisfy it with a meat replacement product every so often to avoid a repeat of what happened with the pizza.  Plus it was nice to have a meal that did not involve three hours of chopping vegetables.

Definitely, a keeper!

Some answers. And some failures.

Okay, apparently the answer to the first question I posed, "Can I go entirely vegan for 6 weeks?" is "Uh, no."  Forgive me, Reader, for I have sinned.

On Margarita Friday, I broke down and had a piece of mushroom pizza.  Okay, I had two pieces.  With real cheese.  Now, it is important to understand that though "my official challenge" started only a week okay, I have really been following a plant based diet for several weeks. And for a while, I have been craving something, like an itch in a place that is just out of reach, I couldn't find anything plant based to ease this craving.  So, I thought it must be greasy, yummy fat and when I got a little tipsy, I snapped and gave in.

I was wrong.

It seems that my body "thought" that it required the fat, or the animal protein, or whatever.  However, ten minutes after eating those slices of pizza, by stomach began to rebel.  Violently.  I lie in my bed for an hour fighting the inevitable as my body politely tried to tell me that we were under attack from a malicious invader until I finally gave in.

Let me tell you, Pizza Hut pan pizza, no matter how heavenly it tastes on the way down, is not nearly as delightful on the way back up. No offense to Pizza Hut intended.

So, like so often is the case, my mistake actually taught me something: Once your body detoxes from animal protein, or animal fat, or whatever it is, it can make you sick to eat it again.  That tells me that I probably shouldn't be eating it to begin with.  Lesson learned.

On to the second answer, "What do I put in my coffee now?" The answer, for me at least is this:

So Delicious Coconut Milk Creamer in French Vanilla.  Absolutely yummy and creamy and all the things that I look for in my coffee creamer.  Definitely more expensive than I am used to, but well worth the money, I believe.

In my next post, I'll be sharing what I've been eating for the past couple of days and the effect this experiment has been having on my husband and children. Because I know that you have all be on pins and needles wondering about that.  Or probably not.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The challange. And its impetus. Part 2.

So, needless to say, (but I guess I'm going to say it anyway), all three participants in the Vegucated challenge finished their six weeks of vegan eating.  None of them chose to stay completely vegan, but all of them did alter their eating habits to a more plant-based diet.  However, the documentary had made a definite impression on me. I had given thought to being vegetarian, and thought that I could probably do that because I could still have fish, eggs and cheese.  I believed that since animals weren't being slaughtered for eggs and cheese, there was nothing morally abhorrent to eating those products.  Vegucated completely changed my mind on that idea as well.

The next day, my oldest daughter, who had watched Vegucated with me, recommended that I watch a movie entitled Forks Over Knives.  Without going into a huge amount of detail, this movie set forth the idea that animal protein is responsible for the amount of heart diseases, cancer and diabetes in this country.  Now, I am not a research scientist nor am I a nutritionist, but some of the arguments and studies discussed in this documentary made sense to me.

And that, Reader, concludes the impetus part of these posts.  Which brings me to the challenge part. Which scares the hell out of me. Because if I, in all actuality, throw down this gauntlet on the Internet, I have to complete the challenge. Or eat crow.  And I am not particularly good at, nor fond of, crow in general.  So here it is:

Can I, like the people in Vegucated, eat nothing but a plant based diet for the next six weeks? 

I don't know, but I'm about to find out.

P.S. Vegucated can be seen for free on Amazon Prime and Fork Over Knives is available for instant streaming on Netflix.

Monday, July 9, 2012

What do I put in my coffee now?!

I know that technically, this post should be the continuation of the first post, but honestly, I do not now, nor have I ever thought in a linear pattern.  Some call it ADD. Some call it early onset senility.  I chalk it up to have seven kinds, and therefore, rarely, if ever being free to complete one, whole though at a time.  Take now, for instance. As I write this, I have a wiener dog scratching at the door to come out onto the porch with me (he can't because it isn't enclosed and he doesn't mind worth a crap), a four year old screaming, "My back! My back!" in a way that would indicate in a normal, rational person that his back was on fire, but probably means that somebody looked at it too hard, a pit bull obsessively chases flies around the three seasons porch which involves her running into walls a lot, and my twenty year old explaining to me exactly why she believes our house to be haunted and in need of an exorcism. Oh, and church bells ringing in the distance which is actually kind of lovely.  So, today instead, of Part 2, on which I know that you are waiting with bated breath (which for years I thought was baited breath, embarrassing), you get this.  Sorry.

It has been several weeks since my switch to a mostly plant based diet.  I have had my ups (I didn't not eat a cheddar bratwurst on the 4th even though everybody in my whole family did and it smelled soooo good; I ate a veggie burger) and my lows (I did eat queso), but for the most part, it is going okay.  I have found a few things that I didn't know I liked (kale and veggie burgers) and some that I don't know I will ever be able to like (sweet potatoes).  Most days I am able to to stick to all plant based products.  With one exception: my coffee creamer.

I cannot, let me repeat that so that you can properly understand the emphasis here, cannot start my day without coffee.  And a part of that ritual for a long time has been a liquid coffee creamer flavored like sweet Italian cream.  Unfortunately, it contains milk protein and must be eliminated for my transformation to be complete. I have seen soy based creamer and coconut creamers which I am considering because I cannot drink black coffee. I have tried and I just can't do it.

So, my question to you, Wise Reader (hoping that there is at least one, though I sincerely doubt it), is what do you use in place of coffee creamer? 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The challenge. And its impetus. Part 1.

Let me let you in, reader, on a little secret.  I'm not really a vegan. I'm just a couple of weeks away from being a meat-eating, cheese-loving, Pepsi-swigging, omnivore just like most of the American population.  Well, except for the Pepsi thing. I'm sure that a lot of people prefer Coke.  Or Dr. Pepper. Or beer. If I were forced to guess, I would imagine that fresh fruits and vegetables made up less than 15% of my average diet.  That's being generous.

And, I was generally okay like this though I am overweight, have high cholesterol, am bordering on high blood pressure, suffer from clinical depression and an anxiety disorder. Wow. That is quite a long list of crap that is wrong with me once I see it in writing.  However, I blamed most, if not all, of this on genetics.  It had to be bad genes. I figured that I didn't eat that badly. (Denial.) Or that I would straighten up and eat healthier later.  Or that the second coming of Jesus would happen during my lifetime and none of that stuff would matter anyway. (Not likely, but I'm still hopeful.)

And so my life carried on in a whirl of double cheeseburgers, pizza and the occasional steak.  Until I made the mistake of a lifetime.  In a fit of boredom from lack of cable after our latest move, I was surfing Netflix for a documentary to watch.  I'm partial to ones about WWII (Ken Burns is a genius) or the environment or how public education is destroying the world, but I stumbled upon one called Vegucated.  It was about three people who agreed, voluntarily, to adopted a vegan lifestyle for six whole weeks! That's crazy, right? I mean nobody except a crazy person would give up all meat and cheese for 42 days.  Not to mention eggs!  Wackos, all of 'em.  I clicked play, and sat back so I could watch the insanity unfold.