Saturday, August 30, 2014

Half-Assed Veganism - A New Label

There are lots of labels in this world. Some complimentary. Some not so much.  As many of you know, this year I drastically changed my eating habits and it seems I don't fit into any of the usual chowing down groups.

Therefore, I formally declare myself a Half-Assed Vegan, a description I used for the first time in a blog post in early June.

There, I've said it. And I stand tall (well, as tall as 5' 1/2" can stand) with my head held high under that banner.
My name is Sue Ann Jaffarian and I am a Half-Assed Vegan!
You mean you're a vegan?

No, I eat seafood.

That means you're a pescatarian.

Not exactly. I eat eggs.

But isn't that a lacto-ovo-vegetarian?

No. Lacto-ovo vegetarians don't eat seafood but do eat dairy and eggs. I don't eat dairy due to a recently discovered food allergy.

So here is my criteria for being a Half-Assed Vegan. Some of you may fall into this category. If so, please be my guest to proudly bear the moniker:

About 80-90% of my diet is vegan. I cook almost entirely vegan at home.  Once in a while when out I will eat a smidgen of meat or have a small burger or a turkey sandwich, but that's really about it and it's not very often. The one thing I do my best to avoid totally is dairy.

Changing how I eat this year has had many benefits:

1) my eczema is pretty much gone (the dairy issue);
2) my constant indigestion and acid reflux is pretty much gone;
3) I'm losing weight without counting points, calories or carbs (but I do watch portion sizes on things like rice, bread and pasta);
4) I feel better overall
5) I've rediscovered my love for cooking!

Yes, me, the Queen of Fast Food is now cooking again! I used to love to cook, but somewhere along the way got bored with it and resorted to fast food and dining out for many meals. Now I eat at home most of the time. I pack healthy lunches and snacks for work. I scour the web for fabulous new recipes, which I trade with my friend Lori, who is a vegan. I'm even coming up with my own concoctions. My fridge, which used to be pretty empty, is now stocked with fruits, veggies, whole grain breads and lovely leftovers. It's a beautiful sight to behold.

Last weekend I made a zucchini au gratin dish using homemade vegan "parmesan cheese" and a tofu parmesan (like veal or chicken parmesan, but with tofu). Both were delicious.  This week I also  whipped up a roasted red pepper sauce for pasta and a vegan corn chowder.  All of these dishes (except for the tofu dish) are from a fabulous blog called Minimalist Baker.  It's da bomb. Run by a husband and wife, they are taking vegetarianism and veganism to new fun heights.

Some other sites I have found fun and useful are:

Vegan Dad (how could you not love a guy who makes vegan twinkies!)
Oh She Glows
Vegetarian Times
Eating Well

Basically, if you have a favorite dish, you can vegan-ize or make it vegetarian by simply searching the web for it by putting "vegan" in front of the food's name. Warning: not all transitions work and I've tried some that won't be made again in my kitchen, but many are super good if you don't expect it to taste exactly the same as your beloved favorite. There are some, like the tofu parmesan, that I actually like more. And the vegan parmesan cheese on the Minimalist Baker website will make you a true believer. I like it better than real parmesan cheese!

The only downside to all this is eating out. Not so much in Los Angeles, where I live and where most restaurants offer many vegetarian and vegan options, but when I travel it can be a real challenge. I was recently on a trip to Massachusetts. Most restaurants in the area where I was staying offered vegetarian options but those dishes were usually drowning in cheese or sauces of some sort or another. For most meals out I ate seafood, which was also a challenge because much of it was cooked in butter sauces or fried. I went primarily with the fried seafood, which was hardly a punishment since I love it so much, but was happy to get home and dry out from all that grease.

One thing I've really noticed since becoming a Half-Assed Vegan is how much of our food is covered in cheese or processed cheese products. Now don't get me wrong. I adore cheese! I seriously miss cheese! But now that I don't eat it and have to hunt down foods without it, I've really opened my eyes to how much of it the American public consumes.  No wonder we have such serious health issues in this country.

I've become quite adept at saying "no cheese" or "no butter" when ordering out.  I'm not shy at all about asking ahead of time how veggies are prepared and insisting that they be steamed and served without butter or sauces or cheese.  Even most meatless salads in restaurants come laden with cheese.

Many, many years ago I was watching a medical drama on TV, which name escapes me now. I still remember this one scene which I found very funny at the time, not realizing how relevant it would one day be to me:

A doctor tells his patient he must give up a lot of his favorite foods.
Patient: "But, Doc, what's life without cheese?"
Doctor:  "Longer."

It's not so funny to me now.

Just so you don't go away thinking my new lifestyle is totally boring and not any fun, I'll leave you with this:

Oreos are vegan.

Oh, yeah, they are. And they are used in a lot of vegan dessert recipes.

Then again, it makes you wonder about that cream filling, doesn't it?


P.T. said...

I am also trying my best dietary wise to clean up my act. I recently discovered a Vegetti device at Walmart to make noodles out of zucchini , cucumbers, and sweet potatoes. You should also check out a spiralizer which is even more versatile--Amazon sells it, among others, and there are blogs and ebooks with recipes.
Thanks for the Minimalist Baker link--I'm going to have to try some of those recipes, esp the parmesan cheese.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Enjoy the recipes, PT. I have something I used to fine cut my veggies. I love to make "pasta" from them.

Di Eats the Elephant said...

Thanks for the vegetti tip!

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

You're welcome, Di!