October 04, 2022

What I've Been Eating Since Becoming Vegan



(Ugh, I spent so much time on this yesterday and I forgot to click "publish"! This is yesterday's post.)

This post has been a long time coming. I've been asked several times about what I eat since becoming vegan, and the answer was kind of boring. I eat the same breakfast and lunch almost every day (which I'll explain below) so there wasn't much to share, especially in the beginning. However, I started taking photos a few months ago to collect for a post about what I've been eating since becoming vegan in January.

I'm going to save the weight loss questions for a later post (I've been putting it off because I feel like it's going to be very long--but I'll work on it this weekend). I became vegan for ethical reasons, but I saw it as a good opportunity to clean up my diet as well; I had chronic pain and after a bajillion tests last year, still didn't have answers. My rheumatologist finally diagnosed fibromyalgia and said two of the major things that have shown good results for fibromyalgia are 1) getting enough sleep; and 2) a plant-based diet.

Side note: I didn't really understand the difference between 'vegan' and 'plant-based' at first, because they both eliminate animal products. Vegan is more for ethical reasons (animals and the environment) while plant-based is more for health reasons. Lots of vegans (but certainly not all) still eat junk food (french fries, Oreos, chips, etc) where eating plant-based is more about whole foods. I haven't eliminated junk food from my diet completely, but I very rarely eat it anymore. My cravings for it stopped! But I'll get into that in my weight loss post.

And I have to say, that I was completely SHOCKED that my chronic pain was gone after a couple of months of switching my diet. I never really believed it could work that way; my pain was so severe and had been going on for years. Even though I became vegan for ethical reasons, the health benefits have been amazing.

I originally started eating this daily breakfast and lunch because I was trying to get in a lot of fiber. Even though I was losing weight last year, I wasn't getting much fiber and I decided to concentrate on that this year. I wasn't anticipating becoming vegan (I literally gave up animal products cold-turkey with no forward thought after watching a documentary called Dominion late one night on YouTube) but eating the high-fiber diet was very helpful when I made the switch.

I really love my breakfast and lunch and haven't gotten sick of them (yet), so I continue to eat them daily:

Breakfast: Grape-Nuts with frozen blueberries and unsweetened soy milk (I started with almond milk but after trying soy milk, I liked it much better). I recently started adding flaxseed to this as well when I wanted to add more calories.


Lunch: Cold oats. I vary what I put in them based on what sounds good, but I generally make about 5-6 mason jars at a time. I add the soy milk to 2-3 and put them in the fridge, then put the others (without the milk) in the pantry. It makes a super easy, ready-to-eat-whenever lunch.

Currently, what I've been making: steel cut oats (raw--if I add the milk and put them in the fridge for 24 hours or so, they get chewy and I like that texture better than the rolled oats), cocoa powder, dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds, vegan chocolate chips, chia seeds, unsweetened soy milk, and a few drops of almond and/or coconut extract. When I'm ready for lunch, I can grab a jar from the fridge. I also eat a piece of fruit (usually a pear or banana).

Cold oats (steel cut oats, cocoa powder, vegan chocolate chips, dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds, soy milk, and peanut butter)


Like I said--boring! I've really enjoyed experimenting with and discovering new foods for dinner, so that's where it gets a little more creative. At first, I started out eating a lot of chickpeas with some sort of sauce (General Tso's is a favorite); with a high-fiber grain (like barley); and vegetables (like broccoli). I loved this combination! I ate it frequently for dinner.

When I started to experiment with other foods, this whole world of possibilities opened up and I started to enjoy cooking again. Tofu was a total game changer for me; I love it now and eat it a few times a week. I also started making sauces and "cheese" with raw cashews, which sounded completely weird--until I tried it. The thought of nutritional yeast grossed me out--mainly because of the name of it--but I've come to really like that as well.

I started using spices that I never used before, combinations of foods that sounded wacky but turned out really good, and exploring ingredients I'd never tried or even heard of. I make a couple of new recipes each week because I have loved getting familiar with the unfamiliar.

I still don't eat a ton of vegetables, but I eat much more than I used to and I've been adding them over time. I love looking for ways to add them in foods I eat regularly and I rarely throw out veggies anymore! They used to sit in my fridge with good intentions until they went bad; now I look for opportunities to add them to meals.

As far as snacks, I only eat them if I'm hungry. Lately, I've been having peanut butter with vegan chocolate chips for a treat at night (trying to maintain my weight instead of continue losing). In the mid-afternoon, a lot of times I make dinner early and eat a small portion before going to cross country practice, then an actual dinner-sized portion when I get home. Or I'll have a piece of fruit. I've been eating a lot of bananas lately, too.

Anyway, here is a collection of a lot of the foods I've made and enjoyed (there are some things I haven't liked, but I'm only including the things I have):

Tofu stir-fry with fresh green beans, carrots, peas, and green peppers


Asian pear (this was a treat from my mom last week; I hadn't had an Asian pear in SO long because I can't find them anywhere, and I miss them! She found this small one and it was $2.50! My favorite fruit.


Banana bread


Quesadilla with black beans, corn, Impossible burger, jalapeƱos, and nacho "cheese"



Whole wheat pizza crust with tomato paste, mozzarella "cheese", broccoli, and vegan parmesan.




Creamy gnocchi with garlic and spinach



Dried passion fruit (another favorite fruit that I can't find)


Lentil tortilla soup with avocado and tortilla chips



Mexican quinoa skillet



Vegan mac and "cheese" with roasted Brussels sprouts



Current favorite treat: 2 oz. peanut butter with vegan chocolate chips


Roasted purple cauliflower


Dave's Killer Bread with hummus, avocado, cucumber, tomatoes, and sprouts


Tofu scramble on toasted Dave's Killer Bread


Pizza with mozzarella "cheese", broccoli, peppers, and olives


Avocado toast (Dave's Killer Bread, avocado, salt, and pepper flakes


My new favorite comfort food: Jerry's beans and greens


Black bean soup


Curried cauliflower over basmati rice


Peanut butter oatmeal cookies


Creamy tomato pasta with fresh basil


Garlic noodles


Korean BBQ Lentils over brown basmati rice


Lemon Pepper Tofu over mac and "cheese" (The texture of the tofu was not as it looks--like croutons! Haha)


Minestrone soup with vegan parmesan


A peach from The Peach Truck(!)


Indian-spiced potatoes (I make these a lot--they are so good!) with broccoli


Rice paper "bacon"


Whole wheat pizza crust, tomato paste, mozzarella "cheese", pan fried tofu, caramelized onions, and vegan parmesan


Tofu scramble with Yukon gold potatoes, bell peppers, and toasted Dave's Killer Bread with vegan butter


Panera Bagel with a sad avocado slice (I wrote this whole story on my blog)


Beans and greens with quinoa


Roasted broccoli and Brussels sprouts with vegan parmesan


Silken tofu chocolate pudding with vegan chocolate chips


Spicy Corn Chowder 


General Tso's tofu with rice noodles



Truffle Mac & "Cheese" (we love this!)


Margherita pizza: whole wheat pizza crust, tomato paste, mozzarella "cheese", fresh basil, and black pepper


Firecracker tofu with basmati rice


Peanut butter and jelly on Dave's Killer Bread and applesauce


Salad with cucumber, tomatoes, avocado, and lemon pepper tofu with tahini dressing


Indian-spiced potatoes with hummus


Tofu scramble with (very over-roasted) purple potatoes and ketchup


Macaroni and "cheese"

This is actually a relatively small sampling of everything I've eaten since becoming vegan! Remember, I'm not a food photographer so the photos make some of these things look not-very-appetizing--but I only included foods I've really enjoyed.

It would take forever to look up recipes for everything I've shown, but if there is one that you're particularly interested in, just let me know and I'll be happy to share (if it's available). The top five foods we really love and make most frequently:

1) Lemon Pepper Tofu Cutlets
2) Truffle Mac & "Cheese"
3) Indian-Spiced Potatoes (I use the dry ingredients listed next to the original)
4) Pizza with my favorite vegan mozzarella recipe (it's from It Doesn't Taste Like Chicken, but it's not online--it's from her cookbook, Fuss-Free Vegan) and whatever toppings we have on hand
5) Lentil Tortilla Soup (the whole family--including Eli--loves this!)

October 03, 2022

Punishment By Essay: A 1000-word writing assignment


Today, I finally started to transfer things from my old MacBook to my new one. It's going to take weeks, if not months, to transfer all of my photos because I am starting from scratch with them. My Photos app is such a mess with a million date changes, a billion keywords, and a trillion duplicates.

While I was transferring documents over to the hard drive, I came across this writing assignment that Eli was given in middle school. I had completely forgotten about this, but I'm so glad I kept it!

You see, Eli is not the one who wrote it. I did.

He was in middle school at the time and his teacher (known for being a total jerk) gave him a 1,000-word essay to write because he was talking in class. What had happened was that another boy, who had come in a little late, sat next to Eli and showed him the worksheet he picked up from "Mr. C's" desk. (I'll keep him anonymous). He quietly asked Eli if it was the correct assignment and Eli told him no, it was a different paper.

Mr. C said that the boys were not allowed to talk in class and gave them each a 1,000-word writing assignment for their short interaction. One of Mr. C's favorite expressions to say in class was, "Children should be seen and not heard"; as punishment for talking, among other things, he handed out writing assignments.

He actually had a jar on his desk filled with small, folded pieces of paper--the kid being punished would have to draw one out of the jar and the number written on the paper was the number of words the writing assignment would have to be.

I was furious about Eli being given a writing assignment for talking in class for two reasons: 1) It was a short, quiet interaction about the worksheet; and 2) Writing should not be a punishment! As a writer myself, I think kids should be encouraged to write for enjoyment or as a therapeutic way of expressing their thoughts; instead, they see it as a punishment, thanks to teachers like Mr. C.

I told Eli he did not have to write it, and instead, I sat down and wrote an essay for him. As someone who loves passive-aggression when done in a clever way, I was excited about this! I had no idea if Mr. C actually read the essays he assigned, but I really hoped he did. So, here is what "Eli" wrote. (It's actually less than 800 words--which was a page and a half in a standard Word document!)



I am so relieved to have received this writing assignment from Mr. C; without this assignment, I never would have learned that children should be seen and not heard. As a 12-year old boy in a class full of kids my age, it is unfathomable to me that another student should expect me to respond to his question about a worksheet we were to complete in class.

Unfortunately, my parents taught me that when a fellow student and/or friend asks an innocent question, the polite thing to do is to respond appropriately. Due to my parents' effective parenting manipulation, giving a polite response is now an automatic behavior for me. Because of this, I received a 1,000-word writing assignment.

I will have to discuss this with my parents so they will know that kids my age should not respond to questions from others. My parents were born in the 1900s and obviously don’t know anything about how middle school should be conducted. 

Children should be seen and not heard.
Children should be seen and not heard.
Children should be seen and not heard.

Maybe if I write that enough, I will finally learn that being politely social with my peers is unacceptable in this day and age. 

It is unfortunate that my mom’s occupation is a writer. Even when she was my age, she was always writing in a journal that one of her teachers had given her. Her teacher told her that writing is a gift that we should treasure and use freely. Because my teacher is smarter, I can clearly see that the teacher was trying to punish her—what a sneaky teacher! She made my mom believe that writing should be enjoyable instead of used as a punishment such as this. 

My mom enjoys writing so much that she turned it into her occupation, and she had hoped that my brother and I would enjoy writing as well. She said writing can be thoughtful, fun, creative, imaginative, and that we are lucky we can express our thoughts in written words. 

I guess I mistook our right to "freedom of speech"-- those words should not be taken literally, but rather as a figurative way of saying "freedom of expressing your thoughts in writing instead of voice". I don’t think my mom understands it, then, why writing assignments such as this one are given as a punishment. 

I just don’t feel the happiness and joy in writing that she does. Writing should not be fun! Writing should be used as a tool to manipulate kids into doing what the teacher asks. The threat of a possible writing assignment is far more effective than a simple reminder that we shouldn’t reply to questions from our peers in class. 

My mom just does not understand that by writing 1,000 words on a piece of paper, I will learn that I should not respond to one’s question at school when it is directed at me. I tried to explain to her that writing is to be used as a punishment—just ask Mr. C—but she continues to reiterate that writing is a creative and imaginative way to express oneself. Silly Mom.

Back in the 1900s, when my mother was in middle school, she was taught that socialization with other children was an important part of childhood development. As the years have passed, and teachers have gotten smarter, I think she is finally starting to comprehend that to be social, 12-year olds such as myself should simply use our body language to communicate rather than using our voices.

Children should be seen and not heard.
Children should be seen and not heard.
Children should be seen and not heard.

When a fellow student asks me if he picked up the correct worksheet from Mr. C's desk, a discreet shake of my head would have sufficed. Instead, I did the unthinkable: I told him no, that the worksheet he picked up was not the correct worksheet. Imagine how disappointed he would have felt if he had completed the wrong assignment! By writing this 1,000-word essay, I will be reminded that the act of common courtesy should not be used in a middle school setting. 

You know… now that I think about it some more, maybe my mom was right. Writing CAN be fun! Writing out these words was quite therapeutic and I enjoyed it very much. Thank you, Mr. C, for this punishment. Where else would I learn to enjoy writing so much if you hadn’t given me this assignment? 

P.S. My mom is already expecting your phone call.

 



I never did get a phone call from Mr. C, which left me wondering if he'd read "Eli's" essay. Eli is very creative and when he was younger, he would frequently write in a journal. I've saved some of his early "journal" pages--which eventually turned into drawings more so than words, but I will never support the idea that writing assignments should be a used as a punishment.

But what do I know? I was born in the 1900s! ;) 

October 02, 2022

VEGAN RECIPE REVIEW: Tofu Scramble


I actually tried out this recipe about three weeks ago and I'd planned to write about it then, but that was when I took my week-long break from blogging. I completely forgot about it until I made it again a couple of days ago and I realized I never posted it.

Spoiler: I liked it enough to make it again--twice--since then.

I bought silken tofu on Amazon and it came in a box of 12. At the time, I had no idea what to do with it! But I'd eaten quite a bit of extra firm tofu by then and really loved it, so I wanted to give the silken tofu a go. A few weeks ago, I tried the recipe for chocolate pudding with the silken tofu and it was SO good. I was very skeptical of this "tofu scramble" idea, though.

When I was losing weight, I ate a lot of scrambled eggs. They were especially convenient for a quick dinner when I was home by myself. I used to make them with butter and cheese... and now that I don't eat eggs, butter, OR cheese, how on earth was this tofu scramble going to remind me of scrambled eggs?

Well, according to what I read on several websites, the key ingredient is black salt (also called kala namak). I'd never heard of it, but it supposedly had a sulfur-like smell/taste, reminiscent of eggs. Sounds appealing, right? ("Sulfur-like" is not really what I'm going for when I am looking for something to eat!) But I ordered some from Amazon because I really do love trying new things.

The black salt is actually pink and not black... definitely prettier this way.


I tried this recipe from My Plantiful Cooking--and I *really* liked it! I ate it on a toasted slice of Dave's Killer Bread with vegan butter. I'll link to it again at the end of the post.

The ingredients are really simple: silken tofu, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, onion powder, turmeric, and black salt. 


The instructions are super easy, too. First, you mix up the spices...


(Now that I know I like this, I'm going to make a big batch of the seasoning to keep in the pantry and make it even faster. I make a lot of recipes from It Doesn't Taste Like Chicken because I have two of her recipe books. I tried her tofu scramble seasoning after this one and I did not like it. I'm glad I tried this one first, otherwise I may not have tried making a scramble again.) 

Then you add the tofu block to a skillet (heated with oil):


Note: I'm really good at cooking scrambled eggs and one of my cooking pet peeves is when eggs are stirred too much while cooking. Rather than fluffy pieces, they wind up being dry and crumbly. I was curious how this tofu was going to turn out in comparison to eggs. However, I went into this thinking of it as "tofu scramble" and not "vegan scrambled eggs"--because I like to call it what it is. And comparing tofu and and eggs is like comparing apples to elephants. Completely different things. I only care about whether it tastes good, regardless of what it's called.

Anyway, the recipe specified to break into large chunks at first ("large" is all relative, so I just figured this size was good):


Then you let it cook for 6-8 minutes without the seasoning and without "scrambling"--so it will release the water from the tofu while not making it dry and crumbly. I just turned the pieces a couple of times and then added the seasoning mixture.


From there, you just gently break it into smaller pieces to incorporate the seasoning without making it *too* crumbly.

It looked more crumbly than eggs (at least how I cook them) but the texture was soft and not dry at all. I could have kept bigger chunks, but I wanted the seasoning to be uniform throughout. I toasted a piece of Dave's Killer Bread (SO good!), added some vegan butter, then topped it with the tofu and some extra black pepper.



Again, I was VERY skeptical of eating this, but also just as curious. It really surprised me! I liked it so much--I immediately had Noah try a bite and he agreed. I wouldn't try and fool anyone into thinking it's actual eggs, but I thought it was as similar as you could get. And from tofu?!

I was talking on the phone with someone and saw Jerry was eating some sourdough toast with just a few bites left. I motioned for him to stop eating so he could try it as well. I put some of the scramble on his toast and watched as his face registered the surprise. He said it was really good, and definitely something to keep the ingredients on hand for a convenient meal. All three of us couldn't believe how much the black salt made the tofu taste like eggs--without an overwhelming sulfur-smell.

Tofu continues to surprise me each time I eat it. And I just keep liking it more and more! (If you have a favorite tofu recipe--of any kind--please share. Jerry, Noah, and I have really embraced it and wish we'd started eating it sooner. Noah's not vegan (or even vegetarian) but he really likes tofu.

Jerry started a plant-based diet as a challenge to himself for the month of August--not at my request--and he said it was so much easier than he imagined. It's now been two months and he's continuing to eat plant-based indefinitely! I'm going to have him write a guest post about it.

You can find the full recipe I used for the silken tofu scramble at My Plantiful Cooking.

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