If you have not yet read my post about why I am going vegan for a month, you should.
After a few days of constant cooking, my enthusiasm slowed somewhat, and I began to look into what pre-cooked options were available for vegans. I have just decided to embrace soy milk, so I can have cereal for breakfast as usual – it appears to have many benefits over cows’ milk: lower in fat, fortified with many of the vitamins I may be missing out on (calcium, iron, B vitamins), a good source of protein. But, while it doesn’t taste much different to me in a coffee, it is just not as good on cereal. I decided to have soy milk on cereal because the greatest struggle I faced during my first week of being vegan was over breakfast. I love breakfast – it is one of the easiest meals for a vegetarian who eats eggs and dairy, because many of the standard breakfasts that everyone eats just happen to already be vegetarian (scrambled eggs, bagels with cream cheese, cereal with milk, yoghurt with fruit, pancakes, toast). Breakfast used to be the meal I was most excited about going out for, but the idea of having a vegan substitute that was not as good really doesn’t appeal to me – this is supposed to be about trying to eat well on a vegan diet, rather than trying to get by eating things that are not as good as what I was eating before. Even at home I was having trouble, and not only because of my failure to make a simple bowl of porridge. On Friday morning, I gave up on the protein powder that I was adding to my berry smoothies (note: if you do use protein powder while being vegan make sure it does not include whey which comes from milk) and just blended a large handful of blueberries and strawberries with ice to make a much more pleasing, though still not completely satisfying, breakfast smoothie. When I returned from the gym that morning I realised I had been walking around with a big smudge of purple smoothie on the bridge of my nose. That was the last time I had a smoothie for breakfast.
Vegan Menu, Day 5
Breakfast – Blueberry and Strawberry Smoothie
Dinner – (From Gobo, West Village) Crispy Spinach and Soy Cheese Wontons; Smoked Beijing-Style Seitan with Chinese Broccoli
For lunch on Friday I had a frozen meal – Amy’s Black Bean Vegetable Enchiladas. It was delicious and I may well get it again for days when I am working a lot or just tired of cooking. For dinner I met up with a friend at Gobo, a vegetarian (mostly vegan) restaurant in the West Village. We had crispy spinach & soy cheese wontons for starters and I had smoked Beijing-style seitan with chinese broccoli. The restaurant was pretty good – my seitan was utterly delicious, crispy and covered in a rich sauce. The rest of the dish, however, could have been better seasoned – I got the feeling that they had a bit of a health-food attitude which lead them to be light on the soy sauce. Overall, though, it was great, and afterwards we went out to a Belgian Beer Bar where I completely forgot to check the vegan-appropriateness of the beer I was drinking, but which I have now just confirmed was vegan. Phew.
Saturday was the day I had been looking forward to for some time. I regularly attend the Smorgasburg food market in Brooklyn, and have noticed that there are many different vegan options available there. At lunch time I walked around with a friend making a note of the range of different things I could try (not as many options as usual, of course, but when there are so many things you want to try, sometimes it is nice to have a smaller range of options, and it encouraged me to try some things I hadn’t tried before). It was at this time that I made my first accidental violation of the 30 days of vegan. There was a stall selling different flavours of surprisingly delicious soy milk, where I had several samples before realising that they all contained honey, which some consider to be an animal product that vegans should avoid. I am not sure what my thoughts on the honey situation are, but I have been trying to avoid it as many vegans do, so that was a bit of a slip-up, though perhaps the kind of slip-up that was least disappointing. As I resigned myself to the fact that I was not going to be eating my favourite mini cheesecakes this month, I passed a ‘vegan sliders’ stall that was handing out free samples of their grilled cheese sandwich made with daiya cheese (made from cassava and arrowroot). One bite and I was completely converted – it tasted just like a really delicious grilled cheese sandwich, but completely vegan. While I stood there, I heard several people walk past and excitedly say “Ooo – vegan sliders!”. This is clearly a great neighbourhood for promoting vegan food. I actually ended up getting one of everything on the menu – a grilled cheese sandwich, potato salad and a vegan slider, and was so excited about eating them that I completely forgot to pick up some tempeh while I was there.
The grilled cheese was amazing in the sense that it tasted just like a normal grilled cheese sandwich and those are delicious. The slider was also great, on delicious brioche, and with a strong, slightly sweet-flavoured patty made of beets, barley, lentils, & mushrooms. My only complaint was that the patty was quite soft, making it a little difficult to eat. The potato salad was fine, better than many potato salads I have tried before, but nothing spectacular.
Vegan Menu, Day 6
Breakfast – Peanut Butter on Rice Crackers
Lunch – (From Smorgasburg) Grilled Daiya Cheese Sandwich; Vegan Slider on Brioche; Potato Salad
Dinner – Baked Polenta with Garlicky Mushrooms
For dinner I made baked polenta with garlicky mushrooms, which wasn’t a great success. Basically it is a recipe that was ok in some parts and not others – still needs a bit of work before it is blog worthy. We also had a bottle of wine, and I completely forgot about checking whether it was vegan-appropriate or not. Still, it was nice sitting out on our tiny balcony, eating our dinner and thinking that I had nearly finished a first successful week of being vegan.