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Day 26 Of My 30-Day Vegan Challenge

I’ll be updating this 30-Day vegan challenge thread every day with my successes, failures, whining, etc. I’ll update from the top, so if you want to see Day 1 scroll to the very bottom and read your way up!!

Day 26

I’ve had some bad news that has knocked me sideways, so journaling the vegan challenge has taken a major backseat. I did, however, make a delicious pasta the other night that I wanted to share here.

Serves 4-5 people

Extra virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

6 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped

2 Tablespoon of Basilcotta

1 box of spaghetti

Kosher salt

  1. Put water to boil in a large pot. Salt the water with a small handful of kosher salt.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat two tablespoons of olive oil and add the garlic. Sautee the garlic until it is fragrant, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add in the chopped tomatoes with a pinch of salt. Stir the sauce frequently while the excess liquid from the tomatoes evaporates. You will know that the sauce is thick enough when your stirring spoon leaves track marks on the bottom of the skillet. Once the sauce has thickened, turn off the heat, add in the Basilcotta and 1 Tablespoon of olive oil, and stir well to combine. Set aside.
  3. Now cook the spaghetti according to package instructions, usually 10-12 minutes.
  4. Drain the pasta well and then add it to the sauce, combine well and taste, adding more salt, if desired. Serve and enjoy.

Day 18-22

If anyone knows a vegan in Paris or a vegan who has survived Paris, can you please let me know? I broke down immediately when I got to the airport and smelled/saw the fresh baked chocolate croissants. I was weak AND I’M SORRY!! ! I do have to confess that life is a little more fun with butter and cheese, though – not gonna lie 😉 Also, I was interested to see how my body reacted to introducing dairy back into my diet after a few weeks of abstinence: there was none. My stomach doesn’t hurt, I don’t feel tired, my energy wasn’t all over the place, etc. HOWEVER, I have noticed that my skin suddenly got SUPER dry, like snake scale-y dry. I am not sure if that is from the plane, or from the jetlag/(severe) lack of sleep, or a sign of inflammation from ingesting lactose, but that could be something, I guess??? I don’t know, I am trying to psych myself up for the final stretch of vegan life cause now all I can think about is cheese. I kind of like this:

30 day vegan challenge

but also

30 day vegan challenge

 

ANYWAY, a commitment is a commitment and I fully intend to keep mine. Now that I am home, I am going to get firmly back on the vegan rails. Today I shared a super easy, SUPER fast recipe for chili: it takes literally 5 minutes (or less) to prep and 10 minutes to cook.

Question for all of you: Do you think it’s only fair that I add the same amount of days that I messed up being vegan into February? Would that be “fair”? That means I’d end the 30-day vegan challenge on February 2nd, rather than January 30th. Let me know what you think in the comments, ors you can always reach out to me privately on the contact page.

Day 17-18

I am officially issuing 50,o00 mea culpas because I fell of the wagon big time cause I am in Paris AND IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO BE VEGAN HERE. I am sorry I have failed 🙁 I’ll get back on the horse when I am home the day after tomorrow and have more control over what I am eating. How the hell do vegans travel???!?! More to come, busy days in Paris.

Day 16

A lot of times when people do vegan cleanses and the like they SWEAR they feel so much better. So now that I am half way through this 30-day vegan experiment, I get to ask myself that question: DO I FEEL ANY BETTER OR WORSE? I used this woman’s vegan experience as a way of comparing.

Vegan Promise #1: You’re skin will get better.

Survey says: NEGATIVE. I have noticed zero difference in my skin since I started this diet. I never had hugely problematic skin to begin with, but that vegan “glow” does not seem to be basking through from my happy, shiny organs (cause that’s what’s supposed to be happening, right?)

Vegan Promise #2: You’ll sleep better.

Actually, I have noticed that I am sleeping better AND sleeping longer. I haven’t been able to sleep in past 8AM for years and all of a sudden this weekend I was sleeping soundly until around 10AM — just like the old college days! Whether this is a good or bad thing is debatable, but yes, I have been sleeping better.

Vegan Promise #3: My aging has stopped. 

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Oh my God, wait, wait, tell me that one again. HAHAHAHAHA

Vegan Promise #4: New “life” benefits like hanging with a bunch of new socially/environmentally minded people.

My friends are already really awesome so this has not been the case for me, but I have loved that this challenge has connected me to people like Chloe Coscarelli who is probably one of the nicest people ever, plus her cookbook are extremely yummy and easy to follow.

Vegan Promise #5: A whole new world of food will open up to you.

This is actually kinda true. Doing this challenge has forced me to explore new ingredients and new recipes and I am really enjoying that. It’s also made me realize how many eggs I eat (way to many) and also how much dairy based stuff I eat. I don’t think either are bad, but too much of a good thing is still too much.

One additional thing I have noticed, and I have NO idea if this is vegan related or not/me just being lazy: I have almost NO desire to work out. I used to be an aggressive gym person, but now all I want to do is go for pleasurable walks around the park or do something light and easy on the joints (that’s literally a thought I had just a few days ago when weighing whether to go to a Barry’s Bootcamp class). Again, I have no idea if this new attitude is a result of veganism or just, like, #ThisIs33 … we’ll see when I get off the diet, I guess.

But despite me not glowing and regressing in age, I am still enjoying this vegan challenge for the most part. I never really did it for those reasons anyway, but – what can I say? – it would have been a nice bonus. How are your vegan challenges going? Talk to me in the comments or email me using the contact page – I’ve been loving your emails, they keep me going! 🙂

 

Day 12-15

Well, isn’t this getting boring? At around Day 13, I finally hit the “OK this isn’t fun/novel anymore” mark. I know I am feeling a little strung out from veganism cause I laughed a little too hard when I read an article in the NYTimes this weekend about Julio Torres when he said, “the hardest part about being vegan is the apologies…People ask if I miss meat or dairy. I miss being liked…I don’t miss cheese. I miss being asked to do things. I miss my friends and family.” Indeed, I have found myself not being as ambitious about going out, saying yes to dinner parties, etc because of this challenge – being a vegan is kinda lonely! This past Friday, a friend took mercy on me and ordered vegan food for his entire dinner party so I could eat too (I offered to eat before and come to his house for drinks)… but apart from that eating has been mostly a solo affair/with my boyfriend, who is kindly trying to eat vegan with me whenever he can.

I am realizing now that the game changer during Week 1 of this challenge was that I was cooking at home A LOT because I had to shoot 18 weeks worth of content for this site. I didn’t realize how much that went toward making this challenge easy peasy (seems really obvious now). A lot of people wrote to me saying, “I am surprised it’s been so easy for you!” and I was like, “ME TOO! Who knew it was such a breeze?!” But that was kind of a false alarm. Week 2 was more of a struggle because I was back to my regular schedule of running around NYC, popping in and out of meetings, not finding vegan-friendly food to help pull me through the afternoon energy slumps. By the time I get home at night, I have been so tired that I resort to eating my new diet staple – various kinds of vegan toasts. I have to go to Paris in a few days and I am pretty sure I’ll faint from lack of food. I don’t even want to talk about it while I am there because I can already feel the French eye rolls, plus I don’t even know if “vegan” is a word there (as in I don’t think it’s in the French dictionary. Yes, I am being serious). There have been moments of culinary highlights though: One is the vegan dessert bread that I posted today, another is a Banza pasta dish, and then a new take on vegan tacos. Here are the recipes (these are not exact measurements cause I was doing them on the fly, but it’ll give you a good “skeleton” to work off of)…

Banza Pasta with Sundried Tomato Sauce, Spinach, and Portobello Mushrooms:

1 (8 oz) container of Banza pasta shells 

Extra virgin olive oil

1 jar of sundried tomatoes in oil

1 portobello mushroom, sliced

2 big handfuls of raw spinach

1/2 cup of fresh basil leaves, chopped

Salt

  1. Bring salted water to a boil and cook the banza pasta shells.
  2. Meanwhile, drain the tomatoes from the oil and put them in a blender. Pulse until it becomes a smooth paste, adding a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil at a time to keep the mixture from getting too dry. Set aside.
  3. Place two Tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat and cook the sliced portobello until it is cooked through, about 8 minutes. Once the mushroom is cooked through add in the raw spinach and cook until the leaves are wilted. Put the sundried tomato paste into the saucepan and turn off the heat.
  4. Drain the pasta and add it to the saucepan, mixing everything together until it is all evenly coated. Top wth the chopped basil and salt to taste and serve. Add a little more olive oil on top, if desire (I personally like to drown practically everything in olive oil).

 

Creamy Cashew Spaghetti Squash Tacos

1 spaghetti squash

Corn tortillas

1 container of Basilcotta

1 ripe tomato or a handful of cherry tomatoes, diced

1 avocado, pitted and chopped

Salt

  1. Set the oven to 375F. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and scoop out all the seeds. Massage the flesh with a little olive oil (about a teaspoon for each half) and sprinkle with salt. Bake them, flesh side down, on a baking tray for approximately 40 minutes or until flesh is soft.
  2. Once spaghetti squash is done cooking, use two forks to shred the flesh and place it in a bowl. Discard the skins.
  3. To assemble your taco, lightly toast a tortilla and then spread about a Tablespoon of Bastilcotta on the bottom. Top with a scoop of the spaghetti squash, chopped tomatoes, and some avocado. Add a sprinkle of salt to taste and enjoy!

 

Day 11

Yesterday,  I had my first vegan induced melt down: I was suddenly STARVING while I was walking around Manhattan between meetings and stopped in at a Starbucks to get a coffee and my favorite snack, their vanilla almond biscotti. I was about to buy it when I checked the ingredients and there it was EGGS. I put it down. Then I saw a KIND Bar – perfect! Checked the ingredients — HONEY — damn it! I went through about 5 different snacks and could eat nothing. So I walked out hungry having learned an important vegan challenge lesson: Always carry a snack in your bag. I remembered Chef Chloe Coscarelli’s advice about her favorite easy-to-carry vegan snacks, and I’ll be buying some today.

I also received an email from a reader yesterday asking me why I thought this challenge was going so smoothly and if I had any tips for someone who was making the transition from being an omnivore/carnivore to being vegetarian. Here is my email back to them:

Hi there! Thanks so much for your email! I think there are several reasons for my smooth transition: 
  1. I knew this was coming down the pipeline for a long time, so I was mentally prepared and also did a lot of research and experimenting before Day 1. For example, I learned some quick easy recipes I knew I liked and could fall back on, like those GOOP tacos (without the egg) and Chloe Coscarelli’s cashew cream pasta sauce. 
  2. I did a 7-day silent meditation retreat back in October (which you can read about here, if you’re interested 🙂 and they served vegetarian and vegan meals, so I had a “taster” of what it would be like a few months back. The retreat also gave me some ideas for recipes/snacks/etc!
  3. I had transitioned from being a eater of all things to a vegetarian in 2016, so really all I am doing now is cutting out dairy and eggs for a finite period of time. 
When I first became a vegetarian I had a really hard time too! Next to pasta, my all time favorite meals are roast chicken and salmon. I still miss them A LOT! But, just like anything, the more time goes by the less the “pull” has an effect on you. And as I found new delicious, easy recipes to whip up in no time (which just takes trial and error) that helped too. Also, I didn’t just  become a vegetarian one day to the next! I slowly weaned myself off meats — maybe try the same instead of going “cold turkey”? It really helps makes the transition less shocking. First I did vegetarian 3x per week, then 2x, then 1x, then I allowed myself 1 “cheat day” per month where I could eat meat if I wanted to (I chose the 26th of every month because I am born on July 26th). 
Another thing that helped me was switching up my flavor palette. For example, I am Italian and always ate things with that flavor base (olive oil, basil, herbs, lemon, garlic). But that’s not a great way to help me reduce cravings of things I desire (roasted chicken with garlic and lemon; baked salmon with olive oil and herbs), so I’ve made a conscious effort to eat more Asian foods — Korean, Thai, etc– which are often vegan anyway, or can be easily made to be vegan! I also love Ethiopian food which is mostly vegan/vegetarian! Getting outside my “palette habit” has been a huge help.
For anyone out there who is thinking about making a big diet lifestyle change, I can’t emphasize gentleness enough! Ease into it! It’s a big change and a big decision so give yourself time to adjust and figure it out! 🙂
In other unrelated news, I went to a GAGA (not Lady Gaga) Dance class last night and it was beyond ridiculous, but somehow one of the funnest things I’ve done in a long time. It’s basically like going back to preschool in a movement class. The first 30 minutes I felt really weird and uncomfortable, and by the last 30 minutes I was laughing hysterically and having a blast!
Cheers to doing things out of our comfort zones! 🙂
 
Day 5 – 10

Wow, I suck. I am sorry it has taken me so long to write back in with my challenge updates;  I’ve been getting back into the swing of real life after the holidays and it always throws me for a loop! SO, VEGANISM. I have to say that the last 10 days have been surprising for me because, out of all my January challenges (no alcohol, no coffee, meditating every day for 30 days) this one has been the easiest by far. Part of the reason I haven’t written in is because not struggling does not make for very good writing.

As far as I can tell, veganism becomes easy when you find the impatient/lazy friendly work arounds and DO NOT rely on vegan cookbooks and/or vegan blogs for recipes and answers (they’re just not realistic enough most of the time). It’s also important that when you cook, you double or triple the recipe so that you have good stuff waiting for you in your fridge when you get home.  Last week, I shared my vegan hack with you (toast, toast, and more toast, see Day 4), and now I have graduated to something slightly more sophisticated – impatient friendly  vegan bibimbap bowls. Here’s your shopping list:

  1. Sushi Rice
  2. Kimchi
  3. Pickled food stuffs of your choice/liking (like these)
  4. Seaweed snacks (like these)
  5. Sesame seeds
  6. Toasted sesame oil
  7. Sriracha
  8. Soy sauce

You make the bowl by cooking up the rice, toasting the sesame seeds, and assembling the pickled veggies over the rice once it’s done (about 20 mins). To top it off, you had as much toasted sesame oil/ soy/ Sriracha as you’d like and thinly slice the seaweed snacks as a garnish. It looks something like this and it’s filling, delicious, healthy, vegan-friendly (I am eating one as I type this):

easy vegan meal – easy bibimbap recipe

Another great meal I came up with was Banza Pasta (made of chickpeas, so full of protein – important for a vegan diet!) topped with black olive tapenade. If you hate olives, you could also do a simple tomato sauce with some blended up cashews to make it nice and creamy. To make the cashew cream, mix equal parts raw cashews and water (for example 1/2 cup and a 1/2 cup) in a blender until it becomes a smooth paste. Add the paste to your tomato sauce and mix well before putting the sauce over your pasta). And if you hate pasta (you’re weird) you can always make spaghetti squash instead.

How’s it going for any of you doing this challenge out there? Leave me your feedback in the comments or you can always reach me on the contact page.

Day 4

The rest of Day 3 went off without a hitch.  Here is a nice little vegan hack: TOAST(S). As I expected would happen, I ended up at the cheese counter feeling like this:

via GIPHY

But then all the little “cheese extras” at the counter caught my attention. Things like marinated artichokes, sun dried tomatoes, etc — ie things that I have always ignored in the past because I was to busy focusing on my beloved cheese friends. Turns out, all these things make excellent impatient-vegan-friendly snacks and, if you’re really lazy (and I am) meals! Here are some vegan toast “recipes” I made yesterday that were delicious and filling:

Multigrain toast + Hampton Creek Mayo  (HC Mayo) + Marinated Artichokes

Hummus + Sun Dried Tomatoes + Olive Oil + Maldon Salt

Storebought guacamole + Heirloom Tomat0 + Maldon Salt

Heirloom Tomato + HC Mayo 

And, in case your ever amiss on toast related inspiration, you should check out The Daily Toast and her Insta as well!

Today (Day 4) went off without a hitch too. I am surprised by how easy and fun this has been so far – I thought this whole experience would be way more torturous! (I guess it’s still early days, so perhaps best not to jinx myself?) This morning, I ran out of the house without eating breakfast (oops), had late morning on-the-go snack at Hu between meetings, had some peanut lo mein noodles and a sun dried tomato + hummus toast for a mid-afternoon snack when I got home,  and for dinner I made my first ever homemade portobello burger. Sadly my burger was not fantastic (I always f*** up mushrooms!), BUT I would give a solid 7 out of 10. Stacking it up with some creamy basil cashew spread, heirloom tomato, butter lettuce, and HC Mayo is what saved it.  I am also enjoying a nice, thick stack of Hint-O-Mint Newman O’s every night and I am loving it. Funny side story about Paul Newman: I used to go to a gynecologist who had posters of Newman all over the ceiling. It made the whole experience much more pleasant because, let’s face it, does it get any dreamier than Paul Newman?

via GIPHY

ANSWER: NO IT DOES NOT. Though, Gene Kelly and Brando were total studs too. OK, now I am getting off topic GOOD NIGHT. xo

 

 

 

Day 3

This morning (Day 3) I had more oatmeal with some ground chia seeds for protein and a spoonful of coconut oil for fat. Right now it’s about 2pm and I am so hungry I could eat my own arm, but that would not be vegan , would it?! If anyone has any great vegan breakfast recipes/tips can you please let me know? I can’t eat oatmeal every day and while I love Willow’s suggestion of making almond butter toast every morning, I know that is going to make my badonkaDONK, you know what I mean?

OK, I am now going to go on my first grocery store experience for this vegan challenge. We’ll see if I break down like this at the cheese counter (distinct possibility).

via GIPHY

 

Check back tomorrow for more info and also please let me know how you’re doing in the comments/email me on the contact page!

 

Day 1 & 2

I started the new year up in Whistler, BC with my family. For some reason, I didn’t feel like telling them I was doing the vegan challenge. The one thing I have noticed so far about going vegan is that E.V.E.R.Y.O.N.E from your parents to the random dude who overhears you say the “v-word” on the street will have very strong opinions about it, whether you ask or not, and I am trying to avoid that conversation. So I doubled up on my vegan challenge for the first two days to see if I could do it without saying anything, having anyone notice, and YES even make THEM eat vegan without realizing it. And – whoop! – I managed to do so on all fronts! We did a Home Exchange over the holidays, so I had access to a great kitchen (I think KEY for this challenge. We’ll see how I do when I am in Paris in about a week’s time – eeek.) For breakfast on January 1st I had a huge bowl of oatmeal, for lunch I had vegan thai curry (PS Whistler on slope dining is NO JOKE and has a plethora of delicious options for any dietary need/desire), and for dinner I made a vegan version of Gwenyth Paltrow’s sweet potato and egg tacos (just skip the egg).

 

sweetpotatoeggtacos

The tacos were so filling and yummy that no one – not even my boyfriend, dad, or two brothers – said anything about it or even noticed as far as I could tell (I got them sides of sour cream and feta cheese, which might have helped masked my “evil” plan!) My only slip up Day 1 was that I took a mindless bite of my dad’s chocolate croissant twist (picture below) while we were waiting for a huge snow and wind storm to blow by while we were on the slopes. Apart from that, I did pretty good and did not feel hungry/weak/gross the whole day! HURRAH!

 

chocolate croissant twist – vegan challenge

 

I thought Day 2 was going to be a killer cause we had to travel 12+ hours to get from Whistler to Seattle to NYC, but I actually did OK. Another bowl of oatmeal in the AM helped to tide me over until the afternoon when I had a thai green curry with the fam before hopping on the plane back to NYC. By the time I got home it was past 1 AM so I was exhausted, not that hungry, and ate peanut butter off a spoon like with my eyes half closed.

 

 

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