Monday, April 2, 2012

Newbie Vegan, Day 64

The day that I started reading The Vegan's Daily Companion by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau was the day I stopped putting animal products into my body. I did it that way so that I would have a "count" without really thinking about it, and an inspirational book to go along. It seems odd knowing it's been 64 days, because it doesn't really feel like it has been long at all.

First, I must say that I feel so much better. I feel great. I'm sleeping better, feeling more energized, and I haven't been sick a single time this entire cold and flu season. (Knock on wood!) I have plenty of energy for my workouts, and I've even started running again. Right now I'm more of a jogger/walker, but I look forward to being a healthy, vegan runner.

I've started moving my veganism into other aspects of my life too. As I purchase new health and beauty products, I am doing my best to be sure they were not tested on animals and don't contain animal products. I'm sure I will make mistakes along the way, but I am trying. (And loving some of the new products I've discovered.) As I purchase new shoes, I am resisting the leather ones, even if I love them. If they have leather, they go back on the shelf. One nice side benefit to these is that most of the shoes I find in stores that are vegan are fairly inexpensive.

I am learning how to find vegan food at my favorite restaurants, and also discovering some new restaurants. It feels good to find a vegan "standby" at the places I used to go to frequently for a quick lunch, and I feel like its good to know what I can order at just about any place. I am also learning how to be an advocate for vegan options at restaurants. Although I was unsuccessful in my first venture (inquiring to see if my favorite local pizza parlor was interested in carrying Daiya), I do plan to keep trying. I believe there are probably more vegans in Southern Indiana than people realize, perhaps many of them are just quiet and haven't asked for vegan cheese.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Product Review: TofuXpress

At this point, I have been vegan for a little over a month, and vegetarian for about three months. I have been using more tofu than I ever did before, but not as much as I would like to use. Why, you ask? Because if you don't press it, it winds up watery and mushy and pretty flavorless...but pressing it is a real pain in the butt. It requires advanced planning and commitment that I often don't have to that night's dinner, and it uses a ton of paper towels in the process. Plus you have to hunt down something heavy to sit on top of it that won't slide off the plate and counter, and konk one of the dogs on the head. And you have to change the paper towels, sometimes more than once. Suffice to say, it was enough of a pain in the rear to turn me off of doing it.

I've made tofu ricotta using a couple of different recipes, and I enjoyed it because it didn't require pressing. But I wanted to break outside of that box, so I started checking out a product I had heard about called the TofuXpress. It's a small plastic box with a spring-loaded top that presses the water out of the tofu, without worrying about changing the paper towels or finding something heavy to put on top of it. In the spirit of "nothing ventured, nothing gained," I decided to contact the company to see if they would offer any type of discount in exchange for a product review. I was very surprised when they e-mailed me to offer me a free TofuXpress if I was willing to accept one with a damaged box. Of course, I accepted, and a few days later I received my TofuXpress. TofuXpress did not solicit my review.

It came in the box assembled, along with an instruction book that also includes several recipes. It was easy to take apart so it could be washed, and equally simple to put back together. I chose a recipe from the instruction manual that I happened to have all of the ingredients for -- Curry Tofu with Broccoli -- and set about giving the TofuXpress a try. To start, I simply drained the water from the container of tofu and put the tofu in the base of the press, then set the spring-loaded top in place. Within 30 seconds, a visible amount of water had already been pressed out, and within 5 minutes, water was already pooling in the well at the top of the press.

Water removed from the tofu after pressing for about 30 seconds

I pressed the tofu for about an hour, but I think you could potentially press it more quickly if you actively drained the water out every few minutes, as it pools in the top of the press. It pressed a good amount of water out -- there was about 1/2" of water standing in the top of the press ready to be drained out. This makes it easier for your tofu to absorb marinade, which is essential to making tofu taste good, since it has no flavor on its own. You can also use the container to marinate your block of tofu after you press it -- just remove the spring top assembly, remove the base platform which doubles as a marinating lid, add your marinade, and cover with the marinating lid.

The recipe I made was tasty, easy, and cheap to make -- a winner on all counts in my household. I'm looking forward to grilling some tofu this summer now that I can easily prepare it. Overall, I am pleased with the performance of the product -- it definitely makes pressing tofu much easier and makes it easy to keep the tofu in the refrigerator while it's being pressed.

Friday, March 2, 2012

WholeSoy & Co. Yogurt Giveaway Winners

It's time to announce the winners of the WholeSoy & Co. yogurt giveaway! I used the Random Number Generator to choose the winners, and the numbers 6 and 15 were selected. So that means the winners are...Christian and Terje! Congratulations and thanks to everyone who entered!

Shopping Vegan and Saving Money

I'm a pretty frugal grocery shopper. I have been since college, when I had a limited amount of money to work with and was doing my own grocery shopping for the first time. I quickly discovered that store brands were my friend, and so were the sale flyers. Ten years later, I still try to be as frugal as possible with my grocery money, but I will admit that I have been spending a little bit more on groceries since going vegan than I was before.

This doesn't seem to make sense on many accounts, since meat is expensive and I'm not buying it anymore. But vegan convenience foods like faux meats and cheeses can be very pricey, which seems to be where the majority of my grocery budget is going lately. Since I currently have a rather sizable stock of those convenience foods in my pantry and refrigerator, I'm going to try to go the next few weeks just buying basics to fill in -- mostly fresh produce -- and use up what is in my pantry to get my grocery budget back in control.

I'm thankful that eating vegan is pretty easy at my old standby cheap grocery retailer, Aldi. There are a surprising amount of accidentally vegan items lining their aisles, along with the items that obviously are, like fresh produce, canned beans, and rice. I went there today and came home with one huge bag of produce (including 5 lbs of potatoes, 1 lb of grapes, broccoli, mushrooms, 3 green peppers, eggplant, and kiwi) and another bag crammed full of other basics (including oats, canned beans, white and brown rice, applesauce, bread, and even some sweets), along with two half-gallon cartons of organic soy milk, all for $38. We'll be eating good this week, with lots of fresh foods, and all without having to spend a ton of money.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Giveaway: Whole Soy & Co. Yogurt

Yogurt has always been one of my favorite dairy products and one of the ways I get my calcium, so finding a tasty non-dairy yogurt was very important to me. Some of the first soy yogurts I tried were a little disappointing, so I did a little Googling to find out what people thought was the best vegan soy yogurt, and I came upon the name Whole Soy. So I sought out where to find it, and bought some. It was love at first bite!

Whole Soy is definitely my favorite brand of soy yogurt, so I contacted them to see if they would allow me to give away some free yogurt so that others can try it as well. They agreed, so here comes the giveaway!

Whole Soy & Co. has generously agreed to give two lucky readers a set of coupons for free yogurt. Each winner will receive:
6 coupons for free 6 oz. yogurt cups (any flavor)
2 coupons for free 24 oz. tubs of yogurt
6 coupons for 25 cents off any 6 oz. yogurt cup
2 coupons for $1 off any 24 oz. tub of yogurt

So, how do you enter? Just leave a comment on this blog entry. The contest begins Sunday, Feb. 26 at 8 p.m. EST and ends Friday, March 2 at 12 p.m. EST, and I will choose a winner at that time using a random number generator. The comments corresponding to the numbers chosen by the random number generator will be the winners, and I will forward your name and address to Whole Soy so they can send you the coupons directly. Be sure to leave your e-mail address so I can contact you if you win!

Want two ways to get bonus entries? Follow me on Twitter @HoosierVegan and post a second comment below letting me know you did. Then "Like" the Hoosier Vegan Facebook page and post a third comment. Good luck!

I hope you all will love their yogurt as much as I do!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Earth Friends Cafe: A Diamond in the Vegan Rough

One of the places that has made it very easy for me to make this transition is Earth Friends Cafe in New Albany, Indiana. Through EFC, I have discovered a lot of yummy vegan foods, made some great friends, and discovered that I don't have to give up eating out to go vegan (and have more to choose from than salads and plain baked potatoes). There aren't a whole lot of vegan restaurant options on the Indiana side of the river, but EFC more than makes up for it.

My husband and I go there just about every Saturday morning for vegan waffles and really good coffee. (The photo above is the waffle with blueberries and a hazelnut soy latte.) They only have hot breakfast on Saturday mornings, but it's worth a trip. I also enjoy going there for lunch sometimes during the week, and you can even go there for dinner now a few days a week.

Earth Friends has several vegan sandwich options on the menu (and others that can be made vegan), along with vegan soups and delicious homemade vegan desserts. I always leave there with a full stomach. (And usually with a satisfied sweet tooth!) We are very lucky to have this option, and I hope more people in this area discover how easy it is to eat satisfying, healthy vegan food through EFC.

I owe EFC a lot when it comes to starting me off on this journey. Being vegan is something I never thought I could do, because I thought giving up cheese and dairy were just not an option for me. My first time trying vegan cheese was in a dish at EFC -- the pumpkin quesadilla with Teese Cheese. Now I have tried a few other kinds, and have been working on making my own favorite dishes vegan, while still enjoying trying new things at Earth Friends. If you're ever in the area, I highly recommend stopping there for a bite to eat.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Insatiable Hunger

For the last couple of weeks, I have had many days when I have been absolutely ravenous. No matter what I ate or how much, I kept getting hungry every hour or so -- and not boredom hunger or thirst-mistaken-for-hunger either. I'm talking full-on, hunger pangs, stomach growling, hungry. Since I follow Weight Watchers to maintain my weight, I know I was eating enough, because I was using all of my points and then some, but I still wasn't satisfied. I wasn't eating bad foods -- I was getting in fruits and veggies, using whole grains, drinking soy milk, eating soy yogurt...I was just HUNGRY.

So I did some searches on a couple of my favorite vegetarian and vegan message boards, and found that I was not alone in having a time after going vegan that I just felt so hungry, almost constantly. That made me feel quite a bit better...but still left me hoping it would pass after I started gaining a bit of weight from exceeding my points allotment (even though I was listening to my hunger signals and eating when I was hungry). I'm not sure what causes it -- many of the posts I read suggested that the original posters simply weren't eating enough after they had replaced higher calorie animal-based products with more fruits and vegetables and lower calorie items. But I haven't had meat since Thanksgiving, and I was already eating a lot of fruits and veggies. Plus, since I am used to counting my points and was able to feel satisfied on 29 PointsPlus last year, it seemed strange that I suddenly needed to eat 50 or 55 PointsPlus in a day to feel satisfied.

Thankfully, it seems to have finally passed. I think that although I was eating plenty of calories, I wasn't getting enough dietary fat, which was leaving me feeling a little unsatisfied all the time. (And, since those calories weren't coming from fat, they were most often coming from carbs, which are notoriously less satisfying.) Even though it was an annoyance to feel hungry all the time, I do think it made me more acutely aware of paying attention to exactly what I am taking in and making sure that I get enough fats (and protein) so that I stay fuller longer.

I've started eating more peanut butter, and eating a larger breakfast with whole grains, nut butter, fruit, and soy milk, and that also seems to help. As much as I hate "spending" a large amount of points on nuts or nut butters, it seems to save me in the long run because I was eating far more points in other foods just trying to satisfy my hunger. Spreading my calories out evenly throughout the day, allotting approximately the same amount to breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and an equal amount to the total of all of my snacks throughout the day, also seems to have made a huge difference. I guess breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. ;)