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Livin la Vida Vegan Day 14 (food and gratitude)

September 30, 2017

Holy hot dogs made of carrots, batman! We made it to Day 14 of the Livin la Vida Vegan 14-Day Challenge. I doubt that anyone is half as excited as my husband and children, who are anxious to get the flour-coated gluten balls off their plates.

It’s an interesting day because it’s the day before race day and the last day of this crazy adventure. I’m very aware of my body today, I guess is what I’m saying. How does it feel … How will it feel in the morning … Was this smart … Will this pay off … Will I have enough gas in the tank come morning? I’m not quite sure what the ole’ girl has in ‘er.

7:30 a.m.
I gave myself a splash of the Califa this morning, against my better judgment, and went about blending up the same smoothie as yesterday. The spirulina gets less noticeable every day, but I need to find a way to get the chocolate protein powder completely out of the equation. Baby steps. I have to keep reminding myself that the work doesn’t end just because the jumpstart is over. Sunday can be vegan. Monday can be vegan. (Tomorrow is definitely not going to be vegan.)

12:30 p.m.
I picked up my race packet and grabbed lunch at an adorable diner downtown with a friend from work. There were so many vegan options, I was pleasantly surprised. I opted for this insane veggie panini (hold the havarti) and kettle chips. Big, meaty mushrooms and thin strips of zucchini and tomatoes … it was fire! The chips weren’t bad, either.

It’s interesting, you’d think it would be so hard to go out, but truly it’s just a matter of leaving off a few things here and there. And honestly, as heavy as they sauce and suffocate things with cheese these days, I find they actually taste better without all of the fixins on occasion.

5 p.m.
I ate celery and almond butter for no good reason.

6 p.m.
Every Friday night we have dinner with my folks, then come back to our house and play three hands of euchre. We have an ongoing tally: Boys: 204, Granny Panties 157. It’s always a big deal … Where are we going to go? What sounds good? It’s a tradition rooted in food and an ultra-competitive card game. Tonight we went to a local place with a huge menu. I assumed there would be something to bring us home on this thing.

There wasn’t much. Hank got a veggie wrap that looked less than awesome (and he reported tasted as such) and I got veggie tacos. They had a pound of black beans on each tortilla (blech) topped with a corn relish and sliced underripe avocadoes. It came with, what else, a side scoop of black beans. Not the coolest way to go out, but I did the job. We were fed.

I stared at my mom’s pulled pork sandwich like a little girl outside a bridal shop.

8 p.m.
A vegan everything cookie to silence my screaming internal sugar demon and some ginger kombucha. For the record, just so everyone is crystal clear on the matter, my father believes that the Standard American Diet, paired with exercise is really what people need … none of this microbiome, gut health mumbo jumbo the kids keep yapping about. Write it down, somebody. We’re all going to regret shooting apple cider vinegar and gagging down tubs of sauerkraut one day.

9:50 p.m.
I feel like a half an almond butter sandwich is a smart choice right now. I don’t think I got enough protein tonight and I’m nervous about my plant-powered 13 in the morning. I’m just going to sit here and think about it until I get up and make it.

It was the right call.

10 p.m.
So … final thoughts on this whole thing. I guess the most common thing people ask is, “Do you regret doing this?” No. I learn something every time I try one of these challenges, and I think that, even though I didn’t lose 20 pounds in 14 days, which, let’s be honest, I was secretly hoping would happen, I did change my mentality a bit. And big change often starts with “a bit”.

I’m sleeping like a dead man, my head fog is gone and I move easier when I exercise. In truth, I doubt 14 days is sufficient for something like this, though I suspect I knew that all along. It was a convenient, manageable chunk of time, but now, on the other side of it, the ending feels abrupt, premature. But I’m sitting here, fingers on the keys, focusing on all the wins.

I can remember, not that long ago, staring at my Pinterest boards for hours trying to come up with Meatless Monday ideas. I’ve known for some time that less meat, less dairy, less animal fat, is better, but I’ve really lagged on the execution. Now, I know that this house won’t crumble without a deep freezer full of the cast of Babe chillin’ in it. I know we will eat our tofu lettuce wraps and carry on.

Every day, for 14 days, more than 500 people stopped by to see what we ate, how it went over and how we were feeling about the whole thing. That just blows my mind. From your time here on these pages, whether you’d been to the blog before or not, I can only hope you garnered a laugh and an actionable takeaway. Maybe that was a product recommendation (likely from Costco, let’s be honest) or a recipe to try. Whatever it was, I pray that our experiment sparked one of your own.

If you’re a veteran vegan or a newbie or considering a change or just a supportive friend, I thank you for spending some of your day with me and, of course, I invite you to stick around for the regular DSS chatter on life, love and losing my shit on a daily basis. Your interest and advice has been one of the greatest pearls from this whole experience. Every text, every email, every instant message, every private message, every comment, every shared pin, every everything. Your kindness was an unexpected, beautiful byproduct of dipping our toes into the vegan pool. I feel humbled and encouraged.

As for us? Well, tomorrow is Vegas, not vegan. I plan to chase the half marathon with donuts and a tub of cookies, none of which I will apologize for. Then we have a fun dinner with friends on the books for the evening and I plan to wear maternity pants and just get into bed with all the foods. All of them.

But after that, we’ll see. I finished my meal plan for next week and it’s all meat- and dairy-free for me. These other yahoos will have to sort things out for themselves. Of course, I do 90 percent of the cooking, so it could get interesting.

Good night, sweet friends, old and new. It’s time for me to turn in. Tomorrow seems like a great day for a run, doesn’t it?


Livin la Vida Vegan Day 13 (cheese heaven and carbonara crap)

September 29, 2017

Despite our temporary vegan insanity, somehow, miraculously, the world in our house keeps turning. For instance, all the chicks have a cough, Spike lost her second tooth yesterday and, perhaps most notable, the pen pal saga continues. I thought we were past it, but then I got this in my notebook from JoJo this morning:

Dear Mom,
I Don’t know why But I still Don’t want you and Spikey to Be Pen pals. I mean Spike still eats her snot And sneaks food and never is around to Play. She even punched you once and she fuses a lot!!!!!!!

Secret: I can Do a Back Pull over!!!! What do you think? Hey mayBe we should start sending secrets right?


How to heal this wound? How … how … how? These are the special things you run into as a mother and just smile up at the heavens for placing such adorable dilemmas in your lap.

Then you have Spike, whose note simply read:

Dear mom,
Do you know that ALL are LOVE is Like Coming in My Haret more LOVE and More LOVE Thank you for ALL the ClEning Up DOn AFter the [SOMETHING]. Thank you for you anD DAD

That girl has a very special soul. They all do. I cherish the gift of peering into their little hearts. And then you have Sloppy Joan, who stood in nothing but her Pull Up at 6:30 this morning screaming at Spike, who was perched on the pot, “I–have–to–POOP!!!!!” She, too, is a delicate flower. Perhaps the most delicate of the whole bouquet.

7:30 a.m.
Don’t fall over, but I managed to leave the crack creamer out of my coffee this morning, saving myself 6g of sug. I added only a splash of cashew milk. I felt very grownup about the whole thing. Again, working to get my sugar (satan’s juice) stats down, I left the banana out of my smoothie this morning as well, opting simply for: 1.5 teaspoons spirulina, a handful of spinach, turmeric, 1 scoop chocolate protein powder, 1 teaspoon hemp seeds, cinnamon, 1 tablespoon plain coconut yogurt and cashew milk. It was tasty. Turquoise and tasty.

I’m trying to pound the water today in preparation for the race Saturday. It’s go-time for hydration. Do you guys follow Heidi Powell at all? She’s Chris Powell’s wife (Extreme Transformation), and she offers up some really helpful fitness and nutrition tips here and there. Anyway, I read this post on her blog … or maybe it was a caption on Instagram … that suggested taking 10 gulps of water every time you bring it to your lips. It helps you hit your fluid goals a little easier. I even say, “chug, chug, chug,” to myself in my head while I do it, so I feel like a girl of 19 again.

Ohhhhhhhh, you guys. I did something really bad that was so, so good at lunch today. I couldn’t do a salad today. I just couldn’t. It’s a little cool here and I found myself craving a grilled cheese sandwich. Now, I’ve had several of you mention that you aren’t necessarily interested in a vegan lifestyle, but you are going dairy free. Well, you are going to be happy you opened this post today.

I have found THE CHEESE. It’s the Chao Original Creamy dairy free cheese and it is freaking outstanding. True to its name, it’s so creamy and indulgent, making it both a miracle and the birth of a very dangerous union.

For today’s episode of “I shouldn’t have, but I did” I took two pieces of sugar-free whole wheat bread, put vegan shortening on one side and kite hill cream cheese on the other side of just one of the slices. I then added a slice of heaven (the Chao) and a generous handful of spinach. I was drunk on sodium and thoughts of the dairy of yesteryear and it was all just too perfect. I nearly ate the whole damn thing before I snapped a picture. My hand was in serious danger here.

Sensing my mistake (that I’ll never apologize for), I panicked and threw some things in a blender a la Rich Roll to try and right the wrong. I grabbed a cup of kale, a small cooked beet (mistake), ¼ cup blueberries, one chuck frozen mango, 2 tablespoons coconut yogurt (plain), ½ cup coconut water, and 1 tablespoon chia and flax mix with cocoa and coconut. It was … earthy, which is a common term around here these days. It was like licking an entire garden.

The whole thing tallied up to 755 calories, so dinner will be lettuce wraps, with lettuce filling and water sauce. I make the BEST water sauce.

5:30 p.m.
Opened these. Had a mouthgasm.

6:30 p.m.
Vegan Tempeh Carbonara. What we have here, folks, is a common case of something looking, smelling and operating under the facade of something delicious, when in fact, it is not quite … good. I should preface this by saying that I don’t like pasta IRL. I am not the person who goes face first into a giant plate of spaghetti or has a sauce recipe to hand down to my children.

Nope, I like my mom’s lasagna, my friend Nissa’s manicotti and other than that, I’m good without the stuff. So, vegan pasta didn’t really stand much of a chance.

I used edamame pasta from Costco, which might be good with stir fried veggies or something, and my new best enemy flax tempeh, and followed the recipe other than that. The first bite was promising, but much like last night, it got worse as it sat. The cashew cheese sauce had a nice flavor but the consistency totally grossed me out once I took it off the stove. I’m beginning to think that the vegan community paid the Pinterest and cookbook communities a ton of cash for some false advertising and I’m buying it up like a housewife at Tuesday Morning. I feel duped.

I did have some killer white nectarines for dessert. Thank you, fruit, for always being true to your breed. Apples taste like apples, peaches like peaches, watermelon like watermelon, berries like berries … At least a gal stumbling through a vegan no man’s land can count on something.

P.s. Hank just told me there’s Parmesan in pesto, and I put that on our sandwiches this weekend, so this whole thing just became a giant lie and I feel the need to confess to you, 300 people who are invested, because I am just as big of a fraud as those bait-and-switch images on Pinterest.

7:30 p.m.
This also happened today. I’m thinkin’ I’m into it.

Just one day to go! Viva la Vida Vegan, baby!


Viva la Vegan Day 12 (disappointments and talk of tempeh)

September 28, 2017

Don’t panic! Nobody panic! The cookies are tucked away in a pan with a lid and a slice of bread to keep until Saturday after the race. Phew! It’s all going to be alright. Not even being temporarily vegan can stop me from taking some cookies to pound town.

(p.s. This is not a birth announcement. This is Sloppy Joan workin’ some hand-me-downs. Don’t freak, Mom!)

This morning, on my drive in, Rich Roll was discussing his Vitamix blends. Essentially, homeboy rounds up every ingredient of the earth – fruits, veggies, hemp, herbs, coconut kefir, spirulina, nuts, chlorophyll – throws them in the high-powered blender (whole, i believe) and pulverizes them into various juices. He has one for breakfast, one before dinner and one after dinner, if he wants dessert (fruit, coconut milk and cocoa). His ingredients vary, depending on whether he needs energy or recovery.

Curious, I jumped online. I want to pulverize healthy stuff and drink it. Did you know that the most basic Vitamix is $300? Three hundred dollars!! For a blender. A small machine with blades in the bottom. I’m really going to need to turn up the heat on this side hustle business if I’m going to procure a $300 blender. Can it possibly be worth it? Would I get my money’s worth? My questions are endless.

7:30 a.m.
I changed up my smoothie today. My Ninja suddenly seeming subpar, I managed to liquify my experimental recipe: 1.5 teaspoons spirulina, .25 of a banana, 1 scoop chocolate plant-based protein powder, 1 tablespoon slivered almonds, 1 teaspoon hemp seeds, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, 1 cup spinach.

This drink is turquoise, man. Surely it should turn me into a superhuman powerhouse with one sip. If I don’t finish this post, that happened.

There’s an appreciation cookout at work today. It’s a meat fest. I wonder if I will ever get to a point where slow cooked pork just isn’t appealing to my olfactory senses in the least. This spread featured phenomenal smelling Korean BBQ sandwiches, Black and Blue Salmon Burgers and hot dogs … For me? Bagged lettuce and asparagus. I decided to head home, instead, for a delightful repeat of my taco salad from the day before. Leftover taco “meat”, guacamole, a dollop of plain coconut yogurt, salsa, and crushed tortilla chips. Today I also added a tablespoon of Seeds of Change quinoa and brown rice. Hoping to feel a little fuller a little longer today.

Confession time: In some ways it feels like I’m not doing this right, or my body isn’t adapting. Something is off. The last few days I’ve felt so bloated. Like, none of my skirts fit and it kind of looks like I’m a tad pregnant … with twins. Not exactly the look I was going for when I set out on this whole thing. I launched a full investigation, meaning I pulled up MyFitnessPal and started diving into the macros, because that’s the only thing I know to do. My sodium was high yesterday; 900g high to be exact. I’m thinking that’s part of it.

The biggest offenders appear to be the fake meats (seitan and “beef” crumbles), which tend to be pretty high in sodium, as does guacamole, which I didn’t really realize. I cooled it on the nuts and seeds, because I suspected those were contributing to my vegan weight explosion, but I was still over yesterday without them. And I can’t lose the guac, you guys, I just can’t.

Guacamole has been my constant. Through all of the Whole30s and sugar detoxes and now vegan experiment, guacamole has been there. It’s a comforting, indulgent, familiar friend that makes me smile in every way. On an egg sandwich, with tortilla chips, on hot dogs, on burgers, on fried tofu, on tacos. I don’t care, I love it. I need it. I want it. I can’t fathom the thought of a world without the green stuff. I don’t want to. So that sodium in particular is going to have to stay.

Luckily there’s Google to fetch me a sea of strangers who have experienced or are experiencing the same crazy things as me. According to the blogosphere, bloating is incredibly common for beginner vegans and usually subsides within a month or so of adopting the diet. So 16 days after this experiment is done, I’m going to be in good shape.

These veteran vegans recommend a range of things to get your tummy moving in the right direction. Those who attribute the bloat to a messy microbiome, suggest strong probiotics and foods that naturally promote more of the good bacteria in your gut. Others point the finger at the dramatic increase in fiber and carbohydrate consumption that accompanies the vegan diet, and recommend good grains, patience and Beano.

The answer for me, specifically? No clue. Bigger skirts.

But it does feel like, although I am feeling some success in other, more subtle, ways, I’m not seeing the weight loss people probably expected or were hoping to see (no one more so than me). And that kind of feels like I’m letting everyone down, mostly myself.

7 p.m.
Another night, another recipe that demands way too much time to prepare. I made a Madeira Peppercorn Tempeh from the Crazy Sexy Kitchen cookbook. It’s my fault, I should have read ahead. The tempeh had to sit in a stovetop sauce for an hour, at least. Then the sauce had to sit and thicken for 20 extra minutes. I ask you, who has 80+ minutes to watch something cook?

And let’s talk about tempeh for a sec, shall we? It’s soybeans fermented to make a cake. Earth Fare had original, flax or whole grain. I figured original would be best for a beginner. I ate it. But I still don’t really know what it was. Who knew that soybeans could be manipulated to create so many questionable food things?

Everything was going wrong tonight. The fuse in the kitchen kept popping and dinner was already running late because of the generous marinating times and JoJo was trying to climb the crabapple tree in the backyard and it was all just a big, messy shit show. And to top it all off, it wasn’t that good. I hate nothing more than when I work my ass off to make something and it tastes like pink school erasers in a semi-decent breading.

It wasn’t a total loss. The sauce with this recipe was good. A pain in the ass to make, but good. It was basically scallions, wine (I used Chardonnay because who the hell has Madeira laying around), vegetable stock, vegan butter and thyme. It had a really nice flavor, which was good, because the tempeh was less than awesome. In the recipe’s defense, it would probably be really good with tofu. The tempeh texture was bizarre and off putting. Even Hank struggled with it. It got worse the more I tried to push through.

I rounded out the meal with baked potatoes (I put vegan shortening and half a slice of this new Chao Creamy Original cheese I got at Earth Fare that was so good), roasted beets, sweet potatoes, parsnips and carrots, and berries.

Then I ate two vegan sugar cookies – such a loser – and watched the premier of This is Us. You guys, that last scene …


Livin la Vida Vegan Day 11 (pissy pants and sizzling seitan)

September 27, 2017

I need to take a pause from the vegan diet updates for just a sec to talk about something very troubling. It’s pee. Piss. Urine. Golden streams. Or yellow puddles. In my regular routine, I come into contact with pee – not my own – no less than three times a week. Whether it’s my kid, or another kid, or a dog or a frog, there is a No. 1 situation flowing right through my day, at some point in my day, every day.

It’s like running a kennel for special puppies with small bladders. Yesterday, when I got home from work, JoJo’s sheets were in the laundry room. One of the kiddos who comes to our house during the day had an accident during nap. It happens. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that we basically live in a giant urinal. Well, my eldest was having nothing to do with it. She funneled her fury – which was only further fueled by her discovery that Spike and I might also start a pen pal exchange, similar to the one JoJo and I have – into a very strongly worded letter.

It read as follows:

Dear Mom,
Tomorrow I’m giving MeeMee (the sitter) a piece of my mind about my bed!!! I’m ganna say that no more kids in my room and no kids sleeping in there! And you and Spikey canot be pen pals! Focus on you and my Because I’d crie to my death.

[Illustration of JoJo with a happy heart (“Mom and JoJo pen pals”) and then a messy stick figure with the caption “me cring. heart Broken.” just below that.]

Love, JoJo

But oh how the mighty do fall. At 4 o’clock this morning, I woke to the gentle whispers of our oldest daughter, confessing that she herself had an accident on our floor. Why she was on our floor, right next to the hairy, nasty dog bed, and not in her sister’s cozy queen size bed? I don’t know. I never know. This is an every night thing in our house. Does anyone else know?

Hank threw a towel over it, cleaned her up and moved both her and Spike (who was spooned up next to her on the ground) back down the hall so we could go “back to sleep”. Of course, we’re never really back to sleep, are we? Parents. Anything past the REM cycle is considered a luxury at this point in life. Right up there with solo time on the toilet and sitting. I guess that’s just what this chapter looks like … tired souls with urine on their hands.

7:30 a.m.
I put a full teaspoon of spirulina into my smoothie today, and backed down a bit on the powdered peanut butter, which has more sugar than I’d like. The algae flavor was slightly more noticeable, but not enough to tickle the ole gag reflex, so on we go. I’m thinking phase 2 is cutting the creamer from my coffee. It’s a liquid sugar bomb, and it’s got too tight of a hold on my heart.

I had a text from my bud Ryan:

I mean it’s not hard, because that’s really what this is. It’s totally doable, but also an insane life choice that’s making everything ten thousand times harder. It’s natural and against my human nature. It feels healing and like all my weaknesses are exposed. It’s funny because it’s really just food, but the change is making me a bit of a kook. And kooky people are freaking hilarious.

Earth Fare run for seitan and tempeh at lunch. There’s a sentence I never thought I’d type.

I came home to throw together a taco salad with my leftovers, but something was wrong. Terribly wrong. There, on the counter in the kitchen, sat a box with a dozen cookies from my favorite local bakery. Come inside my sick mind for a sec, k …

“What … the truck … is that? Why are those there? Who put those there? Is someone messing with me. Someone’s messing with me. Is there a camera in here? Who would do this? What kind of sick, twisted person would do this?! [Find card.] The car dealership?! Why in the hell is the car dealership sending us cookies?! It was a gosh dang trade in for crying out loud! Those bastards. Those car-selling bastards, with their sweet treats and good customer service. OK, I’m just going to lift the lid. [Lift lid, stick nose into sugar cloud. Close eyes.] Oh, shit. Alright, what’s my end game here? Should I throw them away? Just throw them away. My God, you can’t throw these away! You’ll be arrested. I’m a grownup, just set them out for the kids. But they won’t appreciate them the way I would. Maybe we can freeze them. Yeah, I’ll freeze them. We’ll just pull out our favorites and freeze those, give the rest to the kids. But I love them all. I’m going to put them down in this cabinet until Hank gets home. He’ll know what to do.”

And then I put the box of cookies down low, behind my slow cooker, and walked away; unable to discard them and unable to give them up. This, brothers and sisters, is how you know you are ill.

I assembled my salad: leftover taco “meat”, guacamole, crushed up tortilla chips, a dollop of coconut yogurt and salsa. It was bomb. I stood, leaning against the cabinet door where my cookies were sleeping and enjoyed every single bite.

“Goodnight, sweet cookies. I’ll see you again soon.” I whispered.

3 p.m.
What I really want is chocolate and popcorn, so what I’m having is the rest of my suja organic ginger kombucha. Really hoping that quenches the craving.

6 p.m.
Made it! Tonight, we’re cookin’ up some Crispy Orange Seitan from the Vegan for Everybody cookbook. Oh my gosh … you don’t know what seitan is? How do you not know what seitan is, you silly, carnivorous fool. Psych! I don’t know what the hell it is, either. And I looked at the ingredients, so that makes it extra scary. From what I gathered, it’s like globs of gluten or something? They call it “wheat meat”. So there ya go.

The toughest thing about these recipes is making sure you have all of the ingredients on hand. “It looks like you emptied out your cabinets,” our sitter said, as she watched me assemble the handfuls of sauce components. But once I had it all in there, this one came together pretty fast. The nice thing about cooking with these fake meats – tempeh, tofu, seitan, veggie crumbles – is they cook up fast as Rizzo. It’s a big time saver.

I used bagged cauli rice from Costco for a side, along with some peanut butter + celery courtesy of my sous chefs and chopped up plum, mango and blueberries for dessert. (I’d like for it to be known that I did NOT have a cookie tonight.)

This was pretty darn good, I gotta say. The cauliflower needed a little more flavoring, but the seitan was a pleasant surprise, as seitans go. Hank dubbed it “fine” which, if you speak Hank, you know translates to, “not exceptional, but good”. I would make it again.

This is my 6-year-old on seitan:

7:30 p.m.
I knocked out my last training run before the race Saturday; A snail-like 3 miles with lots of sweat. I notice on this diet, I don’t cramp as much and I can steady my breath a little easier during the run. Could be the training or it could be some vegan magic. Either way, by the time I was done, I knew my body needed something. I slammed a handful of walnuts, dried blueberries and pumpkin seeds.

JoJo was waiting for me at the top of the stairs. She found the notebook I gave Spike so we, too, could be pen pals. She told me I broke her heart. That she wanted to be special. That Spikey could never write messages as special as hers would be. It felt like the emotional climax of a Nicholas Sparks novel. I think I got her down off the ledge enough to sleep tonight, but we’ll see. There could be tears. Or pee. Maybe pee.


Livin la Vida Vegan Day 10 (Bad habits and creepy cheese)

September 26, 2017

The alarm was particularly obnoxious this morning, but here we go Monday. I see you, ya little chump. We have just five days left in this Livin la Vida Vegan 14-day challenge, and I gotta say, it’s flying by. The pace isn’t necessarily a reflection of the food so much as everything revolving around it, but, all the same, we’re in the homestretch here.

I weigh in every Monday and every Friday, first thing, preferably before coffee. I do this because I like to ruin both the beginning and the end of the work week. I find it humbles the soul. This morning, the digits were up a tick. Not surprising considering I ate an entire tub of guacamole and drank a case of beer over the course of two days. And all of the vegan marshmallows, too.

Just for kicks, I went searching for posts from other beginner vegans who found themselves gaining weight post lifestyle switch. There was a common thread throughout their musings. Basically, people will tell you that you shouldn’t worry about tracking your food or looking at portions when you go plant-based because it’s all generally good for you. But then you gain 10 pounds by eating an entire bag of shelled pistachios (speaking for a friend) and you realize that’s a giant wheelbarrow full of crap.

For me, I think I went around the Internet and local groceries hoarding every food item I could find that was compliant out of a fear we’d starve, thus creating a winter stockpile of plant-based goodies. And then we ate all of it to get through the first week because we didn’t know what we were doing with ourselves and we were panicked about protein.

But now I know we’ll be OK. There will be food. There will be things we can buy at restaurants and other such places, so there’s no need to stash it all in my cheeks and, eventually, my thighs. Instead, it’s time to go back to the basics of smart portions, smart foods, just within the vegan parameters. Combine the rules that apply to the standard American diet with the vegan principles and perhaps that’s where the magic resides?

Of course, one of my major goals is to lose weight for sure, but moreso, it’s to just feel good in my body. And I feel physically good, I do. But I’m 100 percent not where I want to be appearance-wise. I guess what’s important right now is that I feel more capable of getting there, so we’ll start there.

Now that I’ve said all that, watch as I royally F up this day, dietarily speaking.

7:30 a.m.
I added ½ teaspoon of spirulina to my usual smoothie this morning. The color is intimidating, like beta fish gills, so I backed down from the recommended tablespoon. I could taste it, but it wasn’t as offensive as one would expect from something that brags about its high algae content. I’ll add in a bit more tomorrow. Sometimes bravery trickles, rather than rushes in.

10 a.m.
Snack attack came early today. Trail mix with extra pistachios. I only ate half of the serving, so, see, I have some control.

10:35 a.m.
I ate the rest of the trail mix.

Hey, hey! The gang’s all here! The usual salad – mixed greens with Salad Topper and [too much] Greek dressing from Primal Kitchen – plus some leftover guacamole, Late July Chia and Quinoa tortilla chips, and the three remaining samosas. I also enjoyed a yummy suja organic ginger kombucha drink, which I will consume half of today and the rest tomorrow.

So, remember just a few minutes ago when I was talking about not being able to eat whatever you want, just because it’s technically vegan. Well, I just looked up the samosas. The fried casing really should have tipped me off. When all was said and entered into MyFitnessPal, the dressing, tortilla chips, Salad Topper and samosas came in around 150 calories each. So, what I’m saying is, I have like 100 calories left for the day going into dinner, which is tacos. Which I love. Which means I’ll be way over on my calories for the day, even though nothing I ate was too crazy.

It’s the nuts and seeds and dried fruit. It’s the healthy fats. It’s just all adding up to the same numbers in the red as when I’m not eating vegan. Same loss of control, different ingredients.

3:15 p.m.
A handful of Boom Chicka Pop because that is my favorite and there’s always an open bag in my top drawer.

6 p.m.
Hank had to work late tonight, so I threw tacos together. To get crazy, I also put this 10 Minute Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce in the mix. I used beef imposter crumbles for the meat and it came out beautifully. I always just throw the seasonings – cumin, paprika, chili powder, salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano – in with whatever crumbly meat stuff I have nearby, and fake meat was no different. I made a taco first, with the meat, guac, lettuce, salsa and a torn up piece of daiya cheddar. It was good, but didn’t need the feddar (fake cheddar, get it? We’ve been doing this a lot.) Then I just put all those fixins on a plate and mixed ‘em around for a taco salad. Sensational.

I don’t know what that nacho cheese shit was, but it wasn’t anything resembling cheese. At least no cheese I’ve ever had. It wasn’t a bad taste, it was just not a great taste. Or a taste I’d ever need to taste again. Plus, it was misleading. Like if you fixed a recipe for chocolate chip cookies but they came out tasting like cheeseburgers or something.

Hank came home later and confirmed my take on the gunk.

“I don’t know about that cheese,” he said, as I put away laundry.
“Yeah, I know. It was strange.”
“Definitely not my favorite flavor.”

[Delete pin]

Then I ate three vegan sugar cookies. They were small, but does it really matter? This is where I set myself up for failure. The treats were left over from our camping trip, a purchase so I wouldn’t feel left out of dessert. If I hadn’t picked them up, I would have felt deprived and likely gone off course. But now, having them in the house, I’m going off course during the week … three times. I get caught in this sticky sugar web of mental trap doors and temptations a lot.

Plus, I was so irritable tonight. I don’t believe this has anything to do with the diet. Everything the girls did made me feel like a mad woman. Do you ever have those nights? JoJo wasn’t listening and Spike was hitting Sloppy Joan and Sloppy Joan was stealing apples and taking them to squirrel away all over the house and I had to get the downstairs swept and mopped, and dinner made, and three baskets of laundry put away, and I just had zero energy in reserves for their drama and rotten fruit. Some nights I can find all the blankets and solve all the fights, and some nights I just have to stick the babies in a corner.

Uncategorized, Wellness

Livin la Vida Vegan Day 6 (15 tips and an oil volcano)

September 22, 2017

Nothing moves me like people coming around people to offer genuine support. When there’s nothing in it for them, no motive other than kindness. That just gets me where it counts, right in the ticker. I’ll get to the vegan food stuff, but first, something to make you feel good. On Tuesday, I wrote about how this dietary adventure had me feeling sluggish. I thought nothing of it at the time I posted it, but, beginning that night, the universe responded in such a loving, supportive way. The feedback and advice was overwhelming!

I’m sharing all of this, because there are some great tips here for anyone looking to ease up on the meat or dairy …

  • Tuesday night, I got a message from a former coworker and friend (and vegetarian) suggesting I follow Ellen Fisher on YouTube. Her how-to and recipe videos, filmed at her home in Hawaii, are beautiful, as is she. Check!
  • Next, a text from a coordinator at work listing resources I should take advantage of, many of which I didn’t know existed or felt guilty tapping into. A vegetarian dietitian I should connect with and Check!
  • Then I woke up to three text messages from my nurse/running partner/BFF Jackie telling me I needed to remember why I made the decision to try this in the first place, hold onto that and carry a banana with me for a quick carb boost. Check!
  • Next, an email from a great gal I worked with on a charity event last year. Her daughter is a vegan and dietitian and she’d love to connect us. Yes, please. (Her incredibly helpful email is featured below.) Check!
  • And then this message:

She’d reached out to a friend to triage my sloth-like symptoms. Our convo transcribed:

Elizabeth: you need more protein
like she was so tired all the time

Me: Yeah, I just feel sluggish
Like, yesterday I got 53g protein, which wasn’t enough
I’m definitely learning a lot

[20 minute lapse]

Elizabeth: ok, I have more
the main thing she said was protein was key and it was hard for her at first to navigate the veggie based protein

Me: Right, b/c I don’t want a ton of soy/sodium

Elizabeth: Right!
she said she ate a lot of black beans and hummus

Me: I hate beans
I love hummus

Elizabeth: and I told her you don’t like beans

Me: lol, right, right …

Elizabeth: what if you made “hummus” out of other beans?
or pureed them to thicken soup?

Me: That’s what my friend Jackie said … puree the beans
I also think I’m going to get some spirulina
It has a ton of protein

Elizabeth: I have no desire to do this myself but I am enjoying your dairy free product recommendations
I want those quinoa patties

Then, later that afternoon, this email from the dietitian daughter I mentioned earlier. Mind you, I have never met this young lady before. She took the time to share her insights which, again, could be helpful to anyone looking to make alterations:

Hi Courtney,
I saw that you are worried about proteins & don’t like beans! Luckily there are many others ways to get protein. You could try lentils which are high in protein and fiber; there are many different colors. Green is most similar to rice when cooking. Red changes texture after cooked and becomes like Indian Dhal (which is really good).
Tempeh is just fermented soybeans. These can be marinated and grilled, baked or pan fried. You can find it at Kroger next to the tofu. It can be added to salads, tacos, or stuffed peppers.

Tofu is another good protein source that you can do a lot with. My favorite is tofu scramble. Nuts, Seeds and Legumes can also be a good source of protein.

Nutritional yeast gives dishes a cheesy flavor and is high in B-12.

For the prepackaged burgers and other items marked vegan, they are highly processed so you’ll want to look at the label to make sure it’s not too high in saturated fats, trans fats, sodium and sugar.

I like to Pinterest ideas and try the out. Most dishes can be made vegan! If I have an ingredient like lentils I usually just look up “what to do with lentils” or “lentil recipes”. I also follow a lot of vegan bloggers who cook and make new recipes which helps me come up with ideas too! My go-to-meals are ethnic foods like Indian, Thai or Mexican.

If you ever have any questions feel free to reach out. I don’t mind at all! I hope that was helpful there’s a lot of information that I’ve collected over the years and this is only a little piece! Don’t worry if it’s a little tough now. When I first started I only ate salad and potatoes until I got that hang of it. Also- I love vegan friendly brands. I know the good ones pretty well. If you ever need a product review 😉

With healthy vibes,
The kindest stranger ever (I added this part)

It turns out that all I needed to do to have my faith in humanity restored in its entirety, and then some, was try going vegan for 14 days. If this is vegan, I’ve thought many times in the last couple of days, then count me in.

The good news is, everybody can relax a bit because yesterday I hit my protein goal, with a gram to spare. (I don’t think Hank fared quite as well. He was flying around the house looking at labels while I made dinner last night, doing the math. It didn’t sound good.) Actually, I was over on everything but carbs. The sugar is a result of too much dried and fresh fruit, and the sodium isn’t that bad, so I’m happy with those numbers. A few adjustments to make. Every day I learn something new about my food.

7:30 a.m.
Nothing much to report here, except I added an extra scoop of hemp seeds (5.3g protein/tablespoon) to my smoothie this morning. I ordered some spirulina, and I’ll start playing around with that in my smoothie when it arrives. I don’t know why, but I fear the algae might night have the pleasing chocolatey flavor of my current go-to protein powder, so there will be some trial and error on that front.

11 a.m.
The snackies strike. I added some shelled pistachios (6g protein/1/4 cup) to my typical trail mix and it’s like butter, baby.

You know how I like to get down on that vegan salad. I sprinkled about a tablespoon of hemp seeds on that bad boy, too. I’m just throwing that stuff around like Uncle Bart’s ashes over here! I’m so into that Primal Kitchen Greek dressing, too. Thank goodness for delicious tubs of hummus and the comfort of routine to get me through this 12 p.m. conference call.

3:45 p.m.
A treat for my tummy. This is delicious, not like the super vinegar-y kombuchas of my past attempts. I had half a bottle today, and I’ll enjoy the second half tomorrow. Again, found these gems at Costco.

When I picked the girls up today they informed me there is a pumpkin decorating contest at school. But there’s a catch … there’s always a catch. Entries are due tomorrow, before the Fall Festival. I swung into the grocery store, told the 19-year-old who couldn’t understand my problems that I needed two of her finest pumpkins, and gathered the booty, knowing it meant a night of hell ahead. JoJo is doing Captain Underpants, and Spike is undecided at this point.

4:45 p.m.
I have a work event this evening, which happens from time to time when social media is your business. I need to be back to the office by 6 p.m. and I promised I’d get dinner around if Hank picked up the chicks at the Kay’s. I chose Warm Cabbage Salad with Crispy Tofu from The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook by America’s Test Kitchen for tonight’s dining experiment. It came together beautifully, and quickly. The longest part was waiting for the water to run off the tofu, a task to which the book allotted 20 minutes.

After I prepared the slaw salad and dressing, I sliced the soybean hunk into four separate strips and transferred them over to the cornmeal-cornstarch breading mixture. The oil was already heating on the stovetop. This looks like it needs … something, I thought. In a last-minute attempt to add flavor, I poured some rice wine vinegar on the tofu pieces. Then I dropped the first one in.

Let me ask you, dear friend, have you ever dropped vinegar into a boiling-hot pan of oil? Neither had I! Step into science class with me for a sec … First, the substance burped a bit. Nothing too noteworthy. Then an aggressive pop; enough that I turned my head. Then two more impressive bubbles. Then more popping … and splattering … and crackling … and before I could hatch a plan, there was a scorching volcano erupting in my kitchen.

As no-win situations go, this one was pretty brutal. If I tried to get close, I would get stung by a splat of oil. But if I didn’t turn the burner off, the lava would just continue raining down on my tile until the pan was empty. I threw a dishtowel over my arm and came at the dragon like a tentative knight. With every lunge, I managed to turn the dial on the burner back just a tad, of course, that meant the blue flames underneath got higher before I was able to extinguish them entirely.

When the raging eruption subsided, I surveyed the damage.

Everything on the east side of the kitchen was coated in the slime of my mistake. I looked at the clock; 10 minutes until I had to pull out of the driveway. I frantically started mopping up the worst of it with old burp clothes. Then shrugged. He knew what he was getting when he married me. I assembled a bowl of the slaw, threw a handful of mango in a container and darted away from the scene of the crime.

I text Hank: “Dinner’s all ready. Be careful on the floor. I don’t want to talk about it.”

I shoved a few bites of the tofu salad into my mouth as I whirled through the roundabouts on my way to work. Well, shit … at least it tastes good, I thought. I left the bowl in my front seat while I handled my work business and then slammed some more on my way to Earth Fare after, taking the final bites around 9 p.m., after I mopped up the last of my oil spill. This was a fave, i think. It was easy to make, had just enough crunch and salt, and felt like something I’d eat even if I wasn’t trying the vegan thing on for size. Score: B

Man, some days you kick ass and some days kick yours. This one felt like the latter.

Publishing note:
We’re going to push pause on the daily posts so the crew can go camping for the weekend. I’ll be back Sunday night with an update on how we took this vegan show on the road. So far, we’re looking at a lot of cereal and quinoa burgers to get through, but I’m trying to get creative. I’ve been to Earth Fare like 500 times in 4 days. I think they think I’m addicted to things made from nuts. Anyway … catch you guys on the flip side and thanks again for the love this week.


Livin la Vida Vegan Day 5 (fake eggs and fog)

September 21, 2017

7:15 a.m.
A 2-hour delay? Damn you, fog! Damn you straight to Chuck E. Cheese (my equivalent of hell). The girls would get a delay the week we don’t have a sitter at the house to get them on the bus. How do you get both Employee and Mom of the Year in one swift move? Oh, dear friends, just sit back and observe. I threw together my vegan-friendly morning smoothie and did what I had to do. I took those turkeys into work and used technology to keep them on the up and up for an hour and a half. Oh, you want to search random terms on YouTube? Here are some headphones! Videos with creepy adults opening eggs? Yup, yup, sounds great.

[Dramatic sigh] “I need more coffee today,” I said to myself, Spike smacking the meat of her juicy apple around with her tongue and tiny teeth in my ear as I browsed my inbox.
“No problem, Mom. I’ll run to the cafeteria and get you some,” JoJo said, like she was my 22-year-old secretary on the set of Mad Men.
“No honey, I’m just fine. But thank you.”

9:10 a.m.
I dropped the eldest chicks at the bus stop and darted in the house to grab a bonus mug of coffee with Califia Farms Pecan Caramel Creamer (a gift from my friend Elizabeth). That stuff is DANGEROUS. I love it in a way one shouldn’t love a coffee creamer, ya know?

11 a.m.
Nope, nope … not gonna make it to lunch today, I pulled out my emergency stash of trail mix, Nuts and Berries from Costco, my favorite. Listening to Rich Roll’s audiobook this morning, he was talking about how his vegan diet evolved. He eventually replaced protein powder with spirulina, and his typical mixed nut blend with Brazil nuts and walnuts. My diet, too, is already evolving … I’ve decided to replace miso with … anything else.

12:15 p.m.
Lunch was a repeat for me again today. This is my m.o. I find something that works – in this case a mixed green salad with quinoa/rice, a salad topper mix and Greek dressing with a side of veggie hummus with tortilla chips – and I beat it to death. But a positive check-in from Hank. He loves both the Seeds of Change Organic Brown Rice and Quinoa pouch and the instant pho bowls I got from Costco. He went so far as to say the pho was better than the offerings at his go-to Vietnamese joint. Best news I’ve gotten all day.

“I think we need more protein,” I told him. “Start throwing hemp hearts on stuff, k?”

Not that my husband isn’t capable of feeding himself, but because this was my idea and I make the grocery list, I feel a very unique pressure here to keep his belly full and his head in a good place. The kids are a different story. I can throw cheese cubes at them to calm the storm. We’re going two family members at a time here.

2:45 p.m.
A perk of picking up the girls in the afternoon, just five hours after I dropped them off in the exact same spot, is catching up on the elementary school scoop. For almost a week now, Spike has been wrestling between two of her classmates. They both want her to be their girlfriend, and the romantic turmoil has been agony for all of us. Today’s update went as follows:

“What’s up babe? How was your day?”
“Fine,” she said.
“Who’d you play with?”
“Ugh, well I think I’m going to be boyfriend/girlfriend with Connor,”
“Really? I thought we talked about that and you were just going to be a good friend to both of them so you didn’t hurt anybody’s feelings or break daddy’s heart.”
“Well, I just can’t take Hunter.”
“No! Today he drew a huge circle on his desk in pencil and colored it in. And you know that stains, which makes it an elephant problem. And the custodian is going to be so mad, so I told on him.”
“You tattled?”
“Well, yeah. But he had it coming. And then Conner asked if I wanted to play football at recess and I was like, ‘I’m not much of a football girl, but thank you for asking me.’ And I let him throw the ball to me.”
“Well, sounds like you and Connor had a fun day.”
“Yeah, plus, Hunter eats paper. Like, a lot. So …”

And there it is. Love on the rocks, ain’t no big surprise. Another casualty of careless paper consumption.

6:30 p.m.
We’re big fans of brinner. Nothing is better than pancakes for supper on a cool autumn evening, am I right? As I was menu planning, I found myself yearning for something semi-familiar in the sea of tempeh and seitan, when I came across this recipe for The Best Vegan Breakfast Sandwiches, and thought … there you are, lover.

Please, please don’t disappoint me, I pleaded to the assortment of ingredients as I went about prepping for the herd. Mama just can’t take another night of mediocre flavors.

For tonight’s installment of, “What the hell’s this made of?” we turn to egg replacer. I mixed it up in the blender with cold water, poured it into the skillet and watched in amazement as the liquid solidified into a foamy, spongy giant fake egg frisbee. Flipping it was a test of skill, of which I failed. Hank looked at the ingredients.

“So, essentially, this is instant potatoes,” he concluded. I shrugged. “It has no redeeming nutritional qualities, aside from a little bit of fiber.”

Potato starch aside, guys, I gotta tell ya, these sandwiches were FIRE. I loved them, every bite. I used mixed greens, and kite hill cream cheese and some sprouted grain buns I got in the freezer section at Earth Fare. We even added a slice of daiya cheddar, just to be indulgent. I roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes and a plantain that was hours from going bad, and cut up a mango and apple for dessert. I dipped my veggies sparingly in daiya ranch dressing, which is a delight.

While this meal scored big on flavor and morale boosting, it felt like a lie. Like the equivalent of Sex With Your Pants On for Whole30. Nothing was derived from animals, but it felt a little too human, if ya know what I mean. Hank made the comment, “I feel like the longer we’re vegan, the more processed our diets get.” It’s not the sandwich’s fault. But if we’re going to do this, I want to do it right.

7:45 p.m.
I missed my run because Hank had to make one of his own, for Pull Ups and cold medicine. I did a Fitsugar barre dance workout and felt pretty good. The energy level is picking up, folks!


Livin la Vida Vegan Day 4 (gray hairs and soybean compost)

September 20, 2017

“Hey girl! How’s that food thing … vegan thing, going?” a friend asked via Facebook messenger.
“Oh my gosh, hi! Good, good. It hasn’t been too bad actually. You just really have to plan” I answered.
“Have you lost weight?”
“I mean, maybe? But I don’t think so. Lol It’s been 3 days, so …”
“So crazy. Good for you tho. And you’re writing about it every day on your blog, right?”
“That’s the goal” I typed.
“Are you worried about losing followers, if they aren’t into the vegan thing?”
“Well, ‘followers’ might be a generous term … but I haven’t really thought about it. I guess I definitely could.”
“I’m sure it will be fine. Good luck! Let me know how much weight you lose. Maybe I’ll try it.”
“Yup, thanks for checking in!”

So, I guess I should start by saying that, if you’re reading this, thank you. Thank you for checking in on our progress and showing interest and hanging in there for as long as you choose to hang in. We here at DSS hope you get a new recipe along the way, at the very least, or get inspired to play around with your food a bit, at the very most. We will return to our irregularly scheduled content on September 30.

If you aren’t reading this, I’m sorry you’re a total turd.

Juuuuust kidding, friends! If you aren’t into this vegan journey, I don’t blame you. It’s not on everybody’s bucket list and certainly extreme by certain standards. I realize a lot of people don’t want to look at their plate as a prescription of any sort, and that’s totally cool. There’s a joy in just enjoying what tastes beautiful to you – butter, goat cheese, tender ribs, warm chocolate chip cookies – oh my gosh, somebody slap me across the face and shake my shoulders right now!

This friend’s questions came the night before I started questioning this whole thing myself. I am exhausted. If my energy level was a gas tank, the needle would be at the level where you start searching for your AAA membership. I could have slept forever this morning. I have zero desire to work out. I’m feeling the opposite of everything I was hoping to feel.

Plus, Hank and I are both up 2 pounds. Isn’t that hilarious? I mean just a freaking riot?

7:30 a.m.
I had the same breakfast shake I had yesterday. It’s pretty much a staple for me. I almost always have the ingredients on hand and surprisingly it gets me through the morning rush. No cinnamon this morning though.

“Mom, I used the rest of your cinnamon,” Spike said, when I came downstairs this morning. “I needed it to make a bowl of cinnamon and sugar for my toast. Put it on the grocery list, I guess, K? From the spices store.”

Yup, yup, I’m on it, Chief.

It’s raining here. Zero juice in the tank, plus a gray, cloudy sky and rain streaks on my office window equals struggle bus. This is best illustrated by the fact I forgot my backpack at home, which had my work laptop. I realized this, of course, standing in the office parking lot under an umbrella. I stood in a puddle and pouted for a solid minute. Because I am a grownup.

If anything, it bought me an extra 15 minutes with Rich. This morning he started getting into his actual switch to the vegan diet. His rules are simple: Eat plants, as close to their natural state as possible, at every meal, every day, all colors, all forms. He avoids most processed foods and goes easy on the sugar. Seems totally manageable.

He wrote about the cleanse that initially brought him to this dietary transition, and how he was so sick, down on the couch feeling like shit. Is that what this is? Is this sluggish state my version of his cleanse? (Oh my gosh, you guys, I’m just like Rich Roll!) I’m just 12 days away from running 13 miles, so let’s hope things pick up here, preferably by the time I step to the starting line.

12:15 p.m.
Lunch was a repeat as well. Quinoa/rice blend, mixed greens, salad topper nut and dried fruit mix and Greek dressing. Plus that bomb ass vegetable hummus with tortilla chips. If it ain’t broke …

Hank called to check in. He took a frozen vegetable bowl I picked up at Costco and a whole cucumber from the garden for lunch.

“A whole cucumber?!”
“I’m really starting to get serious, here,” he said. God love this man.
“Do you feel tired?” I asked.
“Yeah! I didn’t sleep well last night. You’re tired?”
“Yeah, but I slept fine. I’m just so sluggish today.”
“You should really think about altering your diet.” he said.

One problem with my go-to midday meal? Those little black bastards in the quinoa love to settle in between my teeth. I had a black bullseye right in the dead center today heading into a meeting. Thank goodness for brutally honest work friends who grab you and say, “What the hell is in your teeth?” It looked like I ate an army of baby ants for lunch.

5:30 p.m.
Another day, another crazy night. My dear friend Kelly squeezed me in for highlights and a trim tonight, but she needed me to come as soon as I could after work. Hank volunteered to pick up the chicks from the sitter so I could rush home and throw dinner together.

I went back to the Vegan for Everybody cookbook by America’s Test Kitchen again. This time Shiitake Ramen. Hank might be a fungi, but he isn’t much for mushrooms, so I was a little nervous about this one. (I know, let’s just move on.)

All was sizzling and poppin’ along until I got to step 4. Simmer for 1 hour. FUUUUUQQQQ!! Who do these test kitchen people think I am that I have an hour to let dinner just hang out on the stove? I turned the burner down to low heat, put a lid on the pot and left Hank a voicemail: “The ramen needs to simmer for an hour … I’m so sorry … please finish it up … I’m so sorry … I won’t be home late … sorry.” That shit better be good, I thought, grabbing my favorite crackers and a pouch of Justin’s angel spread on my way out the door.

The great thing about having your best friend do your hair is that you get an hour and a half to download each other on everything. The kids, work, your foolish dietary pursuits. There are just a handful of scenarios that can sabotage a night like this, and they include but are not limited to, the discovery of a patch of gray hairs and having your stray eyebrow locks ripped from your face like a hundred foot-long carrots from a late summer garden. Coincidentally both of those things happened tonight.

I came home and Hank had the girls up in the tub (a saint, he is) so I started piling the components of the ramen into a bowl. Anything that simmers for 60 minutes on my stove better have unicorns and diamonds in it. It didn’t. The taste was … earthy. Almost nothing. I think the ramen could be dressed up with the right recipe, but this wasn’t it.

“I think I might have put too much miso in,” Hank said.
“What is miso, anyway?” I asked.
“I don’t know. I think it’s compost. Like, soybean compost. It’s aged a year.”

We went down to inspect the label. It had blue ridge mountain well water listed on the label. It smelled a bit like compost … it looked a lot like compost … And the worst part is, I went looking for this. I sought it out. At three different stores. I don’t know what I’m doing to us anymore.


Livin la Vida Vegan Day 3 (bad breath and poor protein)

September 19, 2017

We made it through the weekend. Praise be! Now comes the warm blanket that is my routine, and an opportunity to make these vegan habits part of the grind. Of course, the universe couldn’t make it too easy, so our sitter is off on vacation this week. Saint Kay has graciously volunteered to take on Sloppy Joan in her absence, but I’ll need to go retrieve the other two monkeys from the bus stop each afternoon and drop them off. Flexibility is fundamental to parenting, right? Flexibility and cocktails. Flexibility and cocktails and Netflix.

7:30 a.m.
I made my usual shake for breakfast. I’ve been making it for years, so I guess I’ve had a little vegan in me all along. I play around with the spices sometimes, but the base is always the same: PB powder, plant-based protein powder, a generous handful of spinach, cinnamon, turmeric and hemp seeds. Sometimes I add ginger as well. I pour a little bit of water in the bottom, add ice, and top it off with cashew milk before blending. It’s pretty darn good, guys. Pretty darn good. And portable, which is a plus.

I decided to listen to Rich Roll’s audiobook, “Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World’s Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself” during these 14 days. If you aren’t familiar, Rich is a world-renowned endurance athlete known for his astounding accomplishments, all powered by a plant-based diet, his podcast and his zen-like demeanor. He’s fascinating and inspiring and a really great voice to have filling your ears while you’re trying to make a dramatic change.

But the guy wasn’t just born miraculous. Rich was a collegiate swimmer and successful lawyer before losing a good deal of his gifts to alcoholism. Then, the night before his 40th birthday, he had a wakeup call. He was heavy and tired, weighted down by a fast food and television routine that left him winded and disheartened. Although he was sober, although he had a beautiful family, although he had a successful career, he decided it was time to make a change for his body. He began with a cleanse, then a vegetarian diet and eventually landed on a vegan prescription. It was here that it all clicked for him.

Rich recounts his rise and fall and rise again with a vulnerability that can only pull others in. Maybe I could do that, I think, as he talks about setting out on a short run only to find himself logging 20+ miles because he felt so free. It prompts reflection and fuels optimism and I think everyone can find a small piece of themselves in his story. I find myself taking the long way just to get 5 more minutes with Rich. I have his cookbook on hold at the library and my coworker swears by his meal-planning app, perhaps a purchase for another day.

12:05 p.m.
I don’t make a habit of eating lunch at my desk, but I’ll be using my allotted lunch break to go get the girls this week, so sad sack at my screen it is. Today, I had some bomb ass vegetable hummus from Earth Fare, with tortilla chips, and a salad. I tapped my vegetarian friend at work for her go-to mix, which consists of quinoa (I used my leftover rice and quinoa blend from dinner yesterday), greens, nuts and dried fruit (I used the salad topper mix from Costco) and Greek dressing. It was delightful. Garlicky. My breath could kill a vampire.

We’re thinking about camping this weekend, but Hank has one very strong concern.

“Dude, it’s no fun to eat nuts and berries on a camping trip,” he emailed. “What the hell is that going to look like?”
“Let me worry about the food,” I responded. “I won’t let you starve.”

We’re not going to let a vegan experiment keep us locked up at home for the love of Sarah Jessica Parker.

5 p.m.
I’d tucked the last vegan sugar cookie from Saturday’s celebration in my purse, just in case. By the commute home, I was ready for a little sweet treat. I felt like I was doing something incredibly bad eating the little bugger, good as she was.

I went home to start getting dinner around. On tonight’s menu: Baked Buffalo Cauliflower Bites. I warmed up the oil to make homemade french fries, too, because I’m not an animal. And just so no one under the age of 30 would starve, I put two peanut butter sandwiches on sugar-free wheat bread on the table as well, just so there wouldn’t be a revolt. Plus peaches and pears for dessert.

The preparation for these cauliflower bites was fine, simple enough. I even bought pre-cut cauliflower because why the hell not, right? For the sauce, I added a touch more honey than the recipe called for for fear of the heat, which ended up being a wise choice.

They looked amazing! My hopes were high. The flavor was good, but I was disappointed with the texture. I was really hoping the outside would have more of a breading, or a crisp. Which was not the case. They were soft like God intended cooked cauliflower and they had a kick like Jackie Chan, which got Hank’s engine going

“I’m so glad we did this so we could find a sauce that I want to put all over chicken,” he said.

I think vegan dinner is the biggest mystery to me. If you don’t build the meal around a main meat dish, then what do you build it around? We used to have a pork roast, and then everything revolved around that. Or chicken or pork chops. The meat was the leading lady, and everyone else played a supporting role, barely making the credits, often going unplanned until after the protein was on the stove.

But with vegan meals, there isn’t always a “main dish”. Sometimes there are just a bunch of veggie dishes. Plus, when I look at tonight’s dinner, there’s hardly any protein. Google says there’s like 11g total in an entire head of cauliflower. But beans make me barf, so I’m not thinking that’s not the best choice. I can feel I need more power. I’m draggin’ ass like a farmer with a dead donkey over here. Chalk it up to rookie vegan mom problems, I suppose.

Speaking of being a mom, I have to go. Sloppy Joan is hovering next to me in my bed, steamy pee dripping down her bare legs into a 10-inch circle of fluid. Turns out sometimes Bubble Guppies is just too damn good to walk away.


Livin la Vida Vegan Day 2

September 18, 2017

Big Breakfast is every other Sunday. I’ve talked about it here before, but basically, it’s a chance for my immediate family to gather together and dip into the best damn sunny side up eggs my pops can fry up. He sweats his ass off for the sake of our gluttonous breakfast guts twice a month. But you know what doesn’t go over well at Big Breakfast? A Livin la Vida Vegan challenge.

I packed some wheat toast, with natural fruit spread from Trader Joe’s, vegan shortening spread, and hemp seeds to dress it up. There were fruit and hash browns (with hot sauce), too. There was also a healthy serving of judgement around the table this morning. Predictable but still disappointing.

I’m really honest when I say that I don’t know if this will really do anything for us.

I don’t know if my body will respond positively to cutting out animal products or it won’t or if I won’t even notice a difference. They’re all possibilities. But, let me ask you this, if someone came up to you and said, “Hey there, young woman who feels like crap and bad about herself a lot of the time, I have something that just might make you feel clear-headed and lighter and all around better. Plus! I’ll throw in a lowered risk of disease.” Then who’s the idiot? The person who gives it a go, or the person who doesn’t because it might not live up to the hype?

If food is medicine, doesn’t it make sense to play with your prescription until you feel better? Until it starts working? No one drops their cookie when a friend decides to add dark chocolate or sweet potatoes to their plate. So why is leaving some hog off of it so ridiculous?

Meats cause cancer. That’s a fact. The World Health Organization deemed bacon, along with his best friends, red meat and processed meats, like salami and pepperoni, carcinogens in 2015. That puts them in the same category as tobacco and asbestos. And your risk for cancer gets higher the more meat you consume. Seems like as good a reason as any to back away from the BLT.

I’m not the type of person who runs away from a challenge just because others don’t get it. I’m curious about the vegan diet, it’s something I want to explore, and it’s something that isn’t going to hurt to try. The criticism is a bitter side salad. And really kind of stupid.

After breakfast, Hank took the chicks up to the lake to snag one final day of summer. Meanwhile, I had just as much fun putting away a million baskets of laundry, mopping and sweeping the floors and going to three different stores to get enough meat- and dairy-free goodies to get us through the next week. If I learned anything from our first day, it’s that having easy things on hand is key. Planning ahead is going to be essential for success.

(Thoughtful aside: I ask you, brothers and sisters, what did people do before Costco?)

I had a training run on the calendar at 6, so I made an early dinner around 4. A quinoa-rice blend (Seeds of Change Organic Quinoa and Brown Rice with Garlic) with a quinoa buffalo burger on top. It was fire! Like, legit, so good. I did the patty in a cast iron skillet with a pot lid over it. It got crispy on the outside, which was a nice contrast to the soft rice.

An hour later I was running. And it was a really, really bad run. It’s hotter than Hades here and there were these tiny bugs dive bombing the pools in the corners of my eyelids. My headphones died in the middle of Keisha’s “Woman”, a badass anthem my sister-in-law introduced me to the night before and I’m entirely obsessed with 24 hours later. All I could hear now was the desperate panting of a girl who had too many pineapple ciders at a birthday party. I went 6 miles, but a mile from home I decided I just wanted to walk. I gave into my legs and let them slow to a stroll. Some battles just aren’t worth fighting. I took a swig of chocolate almond milk when I got home as a reward for lacing up the shoes at all. It’s just 2 weeks now until the half marathon. I’m ready to check that baby off … maybe for the last time.

As I sit here typing this, the girls are discussing lunch for tomorrow.

“Mama, I’m hot – cold – hot – cold – hot this week,” Spike said. “Do you get it? It’s a pattern.”
“Ah,” I said.
“What is lunch tomorrow anyway,” JoJo inquired from the sink, where’s she’s been brushing her teeth for 20 minutes.
“Popcorn chicken.”
“Oh my gosh, I love popcorn chicken. It’s basically shrimp,” JoJo explained. “I haven’t had it since first grade. Like a whole summer ago. Oh my gosh, I’m soooo excited.”

JoJo and I decide to start being pen pals. We’ll get a notebook where we can write notes back and forth and place the spiral-bound secrets under each other’s pillows every night. It will be just between us. A special treat for both.

[P.S. Someone please remind me to pick up notebooks tomorrow.]