Wednesday, February 23

The (Almost) Vegan

My lunch. It's all in the presentation, people.
Hello there friends!

This makes two blogging nights in a row. Jonathan is studying for the last part of the CIA (Certified Internal Auditor) exam, and I have been filled with bloggy thoughts.

Tonight we were eating a dinner of salad and Amy's burritos, and I thought it would be fun to share some of the foods we've been eating lately.

First up, I am not 100 percent vegan anymore. Although I enjoyed the effects of veganism, it was really hard for me to be vegan all the time. This change was really more about convenience than anything. I grew tired of worrying about whether I was eating food that was made with eggs. I don't like the idea of eggs, but I honestly don't care if I eat a cake made with them.

To save myself this headache, I decided to try to be vegan most of time. There are two "meat" products that I do eat occasionally (well besides accidentally eating eggs) -- cheese and fish.

I love cheese with a passion. It's not a healthy passion. At that same time, I couldn't bring myself to divorce real cheese for life. It is just too good, and vegan cheese is too darn bad. To make me happy and more healthy, I decided to have the real thing occasionally. I eat pizzas with real cheese, I have burritos with cheese and sometimes we'll have cheese for an appetizer or snack. It's not a daily thing, but I will eat it a few times a week. This helps with my calcium and vitamin D intake (which I was deficient in long before veganism), and it gives me a lot of joy. Joy and vitamin D are both very important!

Although a lot of people have an aversion to fish, I have never been one of those people. While beef, chicken, pork and turkey always made me feel a little icky, fish never did. It's weird, but true. Like my relationship with cheese, I eat fish in moderation. We cook scallops, make tuna burgers and eat tilapia, salmon and shrimp. I enjoy it for its health benefits, as well as for its meaty taste.

Anyway, enough about cheese and fish. Here are some of the store-bought vegetarian-friendly foods we've really enjoyed lately:

Dr. Praeger's California Veggie Burgers: We first discovered these at Costco more than a year ago, and they continue to rank as my favorite veggie burgers. This weekend, we lit our grill, and I had a veggie burger, half a vegan sausage and homemade fries. I put real cheese on the burger, and I dressed it with lettuce, Roma tomatoes, grilled onions and horseradish mustard. I did not miss the meat at all. FYI, if you are looking for these, you probably won't find them at Costco anymore (for some reason they have stopped carrying them), but you can find them at Kroger and Whole Foods.

Field Roast Grain Meat Company: I am crazy about these vegan sausages, which also happen to be soy-free. The flavors are Italian, Mexican Chipotle and my favorite, Smoked Apple Sage. Again, the salt is a little high, but they are a treat and a much better choice than a mystery meat hot dog! You can find them at Whole Foods. They are a little pricey at $6 for a package of four, but they are well worth it! Another cool fact: FR has recipes and a blog on their website. Check it out!

Amy's Burritos: I love Amy's burritos when we need a meal in a hurry. Although they're better when you cook them in the oven for an hour, you can cook them in the microwave in 3 minutes. Like most of Amy's foods, they are a little high in sodium. Sadly, I have yet to find the low-sodium versions at Whole Foods, Target or Kroger.

Besides the store-bought stuff, we try to buy lots of fruits, veggies, whole grains and nuts. We do tend to get in a rut, but shopping at Whole Foods has helped with that a little bit. We look for the sale items....

Whole Foods shopping: My hairdresser calls it "Whole Paycheck." Yes, WF can be pricey, but only if you fall for lots of specialty items, such as FR sausages. If you stick to bulk items like beans, oats, rice and nuts, you can actually save some money. We try to buy the fruits and veggies that are on sale, but we always get our staples: apples, a big box of spring mix lettuces, baby carrots, bell peppers, tomatoes, avocados, corn (sometimes fresh, sometimes frozen), onions and bananas. I try to buy organic if the prices aren't too outrageous. In the middle of winter, some veggies (in particular tomatoes, peppers and avocados) are really pricey. I always get the store brand lettuce and carrots, both of which are organic and really cheap. In addition to these goodies, we try to find one or two special fruits and veggies such as strawberries, blueberries, pears, oranges, kale, bok choy, squash, etc. I strive to fill our cart with a variety of colors. In addition to bulk oats and beans, we buy rice milk (store brand), cranberry juice (store brand), pita bread, whole wheat pasta, cereal, the aforementioned sausages, burritos, veggie burgers, beans and oats. Sometimes we'll pick up wild caught fish, freshly baked farm bread or some artisan cheese for a special treat. We supplement our WF trips with monthly visits to Costco.

Costco: Another good place for bulk brown rice and unsalted nuts? Costco! This store has a ton of bulk items, many of which are organic and natural! Always read the packaging, but I buy brown or wild rice, quinoa, low-fat granola, hummus, salsa, Greek yogurt (for Jonathan), almonds, walnuts, oranges, apples, sweet peppers and other various fruits and veggies from Costco. We get fish from Costco but only if it's wild caught. We also buy sparkling water here. Random fact: I really like sparkling water with a splash of cranberry juice. It feels special.

For me, eating healthy is a no-brainer. My mother is a total health nut, and I have been eating this way my entire life. That being said, Jonathan and I do have a weakness for Mexican food (particularly guacamole, salsa and chips), Italian food (pizza, pasta and bruschetta) and BBQ. We restrict our bad eating to the weekends, and even then we try to make our meals as healthy as possible by using lots of veggies. Since becoming vegan, we rarely eat out. Personally, I think that's because the veggie options in most restaurants aren't so great. A few good ones: the black bean burger at Houston's, the portobello mushroom sandwich at Central BBQ, the margarita pizza from High Point Pizza, sushi from Sekisui, the veggie nachos at Cafe Ole', the veggie wrap at Trolley Stop Market and the Gandhi wrap from Republic Coffee. Each is delicious and comes highly recommended!

Not surprisingly, we're working to recreate most of these yummy treats in the comfort of our own home....

On a side note, I can't wait to go to the farmer's market!

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