A little over a year ago, Houston was hit with a very serious hurricane and a very intense flood. We weren’t harmed too much but we were stuck in the house for a week. And somehow, someway we wound up watching a lot of food documentaries on Netflix.
There was one that was basically like “plant-based diets cure diabetes.” It was hyperbolic and obviously biased but, for whatever reason, we were really motivated to try it. So in between handfuls of gummy worms and fruit roll-ups (all technically vegan I’ll have you know), we decided to try our hand at veganism and eat a strictly plant-based diet for a week.
It was easier than I thought. And I felt better than expected. I really did feel more energized, less bloated. The acne I’d had for a good few weeks finally disappeared. So long story short, we decided to stick with it. To a degree.
Hence the ~ish.
I wouldn’t call ourselves vegan because 1) I’m not. I mean, we had ribs like…last week. But also I don’t feel motivated by or to the degree that true vegans seem to. (All the power to them, by the way). But I don’t necessarily think eating meat is bad . (I think the meat industry can be very bad but that’s another topic for another day). I still have a pair of leather shoes. I think nestle dark chocolate chips are close enough to count. Sometimes I buy Smart Pop because home girl loves a salty snack.
So we use “vegan” liberally. Technically, we eat a plant-based diet at home, avoiding all meats and dairies, and then when we’re out with friends or family or at a restaurant, we don’t care. And we’ve been doing this for over a year.
I think it’s been helpful to not go total extreme. If I had gone cold turkey and rejected ice cream and mac and cheese and scrambled eggs all at once and forever, I wouldn’t have lasted. But having an extreme in one area makes it easier to moderate in others.
So where I used to overeat carbs and ice cream all day every day, now I eat this plant-based diet at home and I find myself not as interested in gorging when we go out. I’ve definitely lost interest in dairy. I can’t stomach ice cream as easily. I tend to avoid the red meats cuz my body just doesn’t like it so much anymore. I actually like looking at a menu’s vegetarian options, seeing what they do with lentils and zucchini and chickpeas.
Honestly, I thought it would be all tofu all the time. I thought we wouldn’t have any snacks or sweets, that I would lose all my favorites like waffles and enchiladas. But there are so many recipes out there that make it easy and there are SO MANY sweets that are technically vegan. Did you know theater popcorn is mostly vegan? And if not, it’s usually because the SALT has animal byproduct, not the butter. So…sleep on that. Plus, there are oreos, sour watermelons, potato chips. Though I guess most vegans also avoid refined sugar.
Hello, sourpatch candy!
But the best part of this change has been my reinvigorated love for cooking. It has driven me to try new things, look for new recipes. Before, I would eat a lot of the same things in variation. Potatoes. Pasta. Maybe throw in some zucchinis or asparagus.
Now I find new recipes with butter lettuce, eggplant, lentils, cabbage, parsley, spaghetti squash. Chickpeas.
(Honestly — so many chickpeas.)
(I could seriously write an ode to chickpeas.)
We aren’t big into imitation products — fake cheese, fake meat. But it’s fun figuring out new recipes for tofu, making a cashew queso (it’s actually really good), using silken tofu to make an alfredo sauce.
And I know this isn’t revolutionary. I don’t think we’ve cracked the code to How To Live Your Best Life! Clearly we aren’t health nuts. We cheat. We use dark chocolate chips that ~technically~ have milk in them. I can’t say I suddenly lost ten pounds or this is the best diet to lose weight fast!
But I’ve loved it.
It also helps that some of my favorite foods — Indian, Thai — are very vegan friendly. There are so many flavors in the world, y’all! But I feel better about my diet, my energy, my lifestyle. I’m proud of us for doing it. I’m happy to have found something that allows me to be a little more conscious about this world and our impact on it. It’s something I hope to continue doing — and something I’m always happy to talk about.
So to that end, I wanted to share a few of my favorite recipes. We go back to these again and again and, well, again. You can follow me on Pinterest for more but also — if you have any favorite plant-based recipes, I wanna try ’em!
This roasted cauliflower salad is an all-time favorite. We make it probably once a week. It’s my go-to. I absolutely love it. You can add kale or roasted pepper to make it go further. I honestly am obsessed.
These vegan cookies are literally some of the best cookies, period. Sure, they’re very heavy on the coconut oil — which we just learned is like basically evil. But these cookies are worth it even if they’re not healthy. And PS I always just replace applesauce with 3tbs of aquafaba (that’s a fancy word for the juice in a can of chickpeas).
And this mushroom lentil stew over mashed potatoes is like the coziest of all meals.
Final PS: I’m not great at following recipes. Put another way, I’m really great at making recipes my own. So if I don’t have something or think something would be better in it, then I make those adjustments as necessary. I think that’s what’s great about working with vegetables: there’s no harm in more. And there are so many flavors to choose from.