Foodie Penpal

This month I participated in a foodie penpal program created by the Lean Green Bean. The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things within $15. This was tons of fun! It was a treat to get a package in the mail filled with surprises.

My foodie penpal came through with flying colors.  There were 2 things of dried fruit – peaches and mangos.  The peaches were good, but the mango was absolutely amazing!  Yum!  Even the boys loved this.

I’m still not 100% sure what to do with the orange drizzle.  I am not a particularly fancy cook, and the boys certainly don’t care how good it looks.  If anyone has any ideas for this, please let me know!

Last but not least, I am nerdily excited about the garam marsala.  I’ve never used it before, but I am intrigued.  I did come across a vegan dish that needs it, so that is definitely on the menu for the upcoming month!

I would definitely encourage anyone looking for a fun way to be exposed to new foods to join up with the penpal program.  Unfortunately, I won’t be able to participate for the month of May as it is a hectic month for us, but I look forward to going back to it in June!

Mommy vs. Joey

This is Joey.

Cute, huh? He is a vibrant, happy 4 year old with LOTS of personality. He is also extremely picky, and like his mother, very, very stubborn.

In my change to vegan, I certainly thought about the kids. I bought Joey some prepacked fake chicken nuggets, some vanilla almond milk, and some of the fake meat hamburgers to help ease the transition. I must of thought I was dealing with an amateur. He sniffed these replacements out immediately, refusing to eat anything but toast.

For days we struggled trying to get him to eat ANYTHING that wasn’t toast. At the end of the week, I finally broke down and let him have Taco Bell. I know, not exactly the healthiest choice, but he was happy, and he wasn’t eating toast. How can one small child completely and totally defeat me? Everything I tried was a failure.

I had to take a step back to make progress. I bought a carton of skim milk and mixed it half and half with his soymilk. Success! He drank this without complaint! It’s not vegan, but it’s a step in the right direction. Tonight, he actually tried dinner (a “meat”loaf), and he didn’t completely hate it. He didn’t eat it, but sometimes the fact that he didn’t spit it out is its own small victory. He even ate a snack of hummus and crackers and really enjoyed it.

I’ve come to realize that it is going to take time to unlearn and change the eating habits he has had his entire life. He’s a little bit too young to really understand why Mom and Dad have chosen this type of diet. Slow changes and less pressure from us is the best way to move forward.

So, he may still be eating a lot of toast, but at least now it is all natural peanut butter and jelly made entirely of fruit. (I made that change last week and he didn’t even notice!)

The Perils of Grocery Shopping

Completely gutting and restocking a kitchen is no easy (or inexpensive) task.  This was made even more challenging by the fact that my typical grocery store, Cub, did not carry everything I needed.  I certainly tried to find it all there.  I went through Cub’s aisles two, three, four times to find things in the back of my mind I knew weren’t there.  In fact, I think at one point, I closed my eyes and tried to will a product onto the shelf; it didn’t work.

In order to get the remaining items on my list, I needed to go to a “foodie” market.  I was scared.

Why?  First, it was a new experience.  I am not known for being good with change.  If I could find everything I needed at one store, I would be perfectly content shopping there for the rest of my life.  Second, I don’t know where anything is.  I am going into a brand new store with NO idea how to find the things I need.  I’m not sure what nutritional yeast is… how on earth am I supposed to figure out where it is in the store?

On the recommendation of a friend, my family and I went to Mississippi Market in St. Paul. (I made the whole family come – safety in numbers!) However, I had reservations about it before even stepping through the door.  Mississippi Market is a Co-op.  Can I even shop at a Co-op?  Don’t you have to pay a premium and pick your own tomatoes to share? I wasn’t sure what to expect.

I was pleasantly surprised when walking through the door.  There was no cover charge, my family and I were more than welcome, and I found the nutritional yeast much quicker than I anticipated. (It’s the the bulk section for anyone searching for it.) The organic prices were similar to those at Cub, and they had a much wider selection of vegan friendly foods. The young man that worked there was even kind enough to help me find a couple of things once I worked up the courage to ask. (Okay, my husband asked… I’m also notoriously stubborn.)

I’m still not 100% comfortable with finding things at the store, and I still may use Cub for some of my non-specialized basics, but I happy to have found a store that is able to help our family lead our plant-strong life!

One Week Down!

We’ve finished our first week on the Engine 2 Diet!  (Note from Chad: Or should I say we survived?) I know this week I have felt better and consistently had more energy.

The adjustment to not eating meat was easier than I anticipated as well.  I haven’t even craved it! (Note from Chad: I had a couple of days where I really wanted bratwurst from the St. Paul Student Center-a Wednesday tradition-or chicken fingers from Raising Cane’s, thanks to a friend who invited me to lunch.)

Chad, being the good Nebraskan that he is, loves his meat, and he had more of a challenge giving it up completely.  However, he even said today that he felt better after a meal with no meat. (Note from Chad: I actually felt full, without feeling weighed down… that after-dinner-I-want-to-sit-and-veg-no-pun-intended feeling.)

Some of our favorite dishes were the simplest – Rip’s Big Bowl in the morning is a delicious way to start your day.  I personally LOVED the chalupas!  I wouldn’t have believed that such a variety of foods could be made without meat, dairy, and oil and still be so delightful.  The best part – we haven’t even been hungry.  Everything has been more than filling.

I know, I am starting to sound like a commercial for the Engine 2 Diet.  You know what?  I’m OK with that.  In fact, I think everyone should at least try this.  It’s good for your health, it tastes great, and you never go hungry.  There’s no down side! (Note from Chad: I admit, most of the meals have been quite tasty.)

Perhaps I’ll have a moment of weakness and really want a hamburger in the upcoming weeks, but so far, I’ve been completely satisfied.

Go Plant-Strong!

There’s High Fructose Corn Syrup in THAT Too?!

The great kitchen purge is officially over… finally!  Sunday was spent cleaning out the fridge and cupboards of all the foods not on our new plant strong diet. Funny enough, this task was much easier and more enjoyable than I could have anticipated.  Why? As I was removing items, I started glancing at the ingredients label.  Those mile-long ingredients lists we jam-packed with words I couldn’t pronounce, items that did not look like they could possibly be derived from anything natural, and, almost always, high fructose corn syrup.

Victims of the Great Purge Continue reading

Saving the world… or perhaps my own butt

Welcome to our journey about our plant-based diet!  We invite you to join us for the journey, and as importantly, to hold us accountable. My husband and I have decided starting April 2nd, we will be replacing our typical foods with those that are plant-based.  Well, I have decided… and my husband and family are along for the ride.

Many have asked why we have chosen to pursue this type of lifestyle.  Or, a more accurate quote from my parents, “Why on earth would you want to do something like that??”  I would like to say that it was for noble ideas such as saving the planet or saving the animals; it is honestly more to save my own butt.  I’ve had an interest in food and the food movement for several years now.  I was hooked as soon as I read my first Michael Pollan book.  Even with the knowledge of how our food system was damaging our planet, I have done little to change my own diet or the diet of my family.  The spark for the change was after Chad and I sat down to watch Forks over Knives.   The overwhelming research on how harmful animal products could be to your health was too much to ignore.  My family has a history of heart disease AND cancer… I need to change the way we all eat!

What is plant-based?  It is essentially a vegan diet, but my husband has banned the “V” word from being used in our household (I think for him it brings up images of people that eat granola, share their feelings, and don’t shave).  Chad and I are planning to stick with the Engine 2 diet for the next 28 days, while we will keep the boys on as close to a plant-based diet as possible.  (A picky 4 1/2 year old and and almost 1 year old are going to  be a challenge.)  After the 28 days, we are going to look at our budget, our health, and the results, and determine what makes the most sense for us.

The blog came about as a way to keep us accountable!  It’s a whole lot harder to quit something when it’s out there for the whole world to see.  I think this will also be a great opportunity for us to keep a kind of journal of our experience.

This next week will be dedicated to getting our kitchen in shape and ready to go.  I have a stack of v-word cookbooks, and a trash bag for all of the junk food in my kitchen. I better eat that ice cream before I have to throw it out!

Our Lost Weekend

The vegan diet was going great…until last weekend.  Somehow the wheels came off and Sunday had us at the Mall of America at perhaps the worst of the fast food – Long John Silver’s (I’m sure there’s actually some fish under that deep-fried breading).

How did this happen?  Mainly, I panicked.  Everyone was hungry, it was already well after lunch time,  and the choices were eating at the mall or going home and making lunch.  Making lunch would have pushed us nearly out to dinner time, and that would have led to two VERY hungry and VERY crabby kids. Or three, if you count my husband. So, we opted to eat at the mall.

The real trouble began when we were deciding where to eat.  We wanted something quick.  I was looking around for some good options, but without giving a thorough reading to all of the menus, it was hard to tell what would have been the best option.  We saw LJS, and with some gentle prodding from my husband, we sat down and ate. Funny enough, I didn’t really like LJS before we went vegan.  Avoiding screaming children was my main motivation.

However, from bad choices often comes important lessons.  We both felt pretty miserable after lunch, but this just went to show us how good we had felt on the plant strong diet and what things like LJS do to your body.  We frequently will go for family walks when the weather is nice, and my husband even commented about how lethargic and sluggish he felt after the fried fish-a-thon. Lesson learned!

In the future, I will take a peek at the food options before we head out to the mall over lunchtime so we can make informed choices (and not panicked ones). If anybody has suggestions of family-friendly, relatively fast dining options (particularly at the Mall of America), please mention them in the comments section!