Vegan! For good this time.

I tried to put off blogging again until I had something other than veganism to talk about. That clearly is not going to happen so I apologize but this is going to be a blog about that for a while. Yup.

So, in the time between my last post about veganism and now it has become a permanent change. I move fast apparently. What happened was I was doing research into how to go about this diet healthfully. I learned a lot about omega 3 fats and omega 6 fats, about protein and B12, and about the different kinds of proteins we take in from animal to vegetable. It’s all very good info, and I’m coming to believe that a more plant based diet is a healthy and beneficial diet.

As the research went on though I was exposed more to the ethical side of it. And I was reminded that when I quit my vegetarianism years ago it was not for a very good reason. Put shortly, it was for a boy. I never stopped believing the things I used to I just put up a wall around them in order to bolster a high school relationship which ended up blowing up anyway.

So I’m vegan again. Permanently, or at least that’s the plan. And it’s been going so much better than it did last time, mostly because I am much more educated about the facets of nutrition and am more in control of what food I have on hand as an adult than I was as a teenager.

It’s been an interesting transition. But it’s been good, and aside from family visits where milk couldn’t be avoided (David’s birthday, wasn’t about to pitch a fit) I’ve held fast. After watching Earthlings it’s hard to even have milk without feeling an immense amount of guilt.

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Pasta! Homemade vegan raviolis in an amateur kitchen.

Long title. Bit unwieldy. That’s okay.

When I first decided to stay at home we started saving grocery money because, in my abundant free time, I started making more and more things by hand. A bag of rice and a tin of peas goes a long way when you’ve got the right spices, longer than I think most people realize.

Now that I’m vegan, it’s gotten even closer to scratch cooking, because vegan prepared foods are so, so expensive and dried chickpeas are so, so cheap. I’m making more and more things by hand and realizing how easy it really is to do that. Which is why today I am bringing you: Vegan Spinach Ravioli!

Is this a cooking blog? I don’t even know really.

I am using this recipe for the vegan pasta. Most pasta you buy at the store is vegan, but I had to make this one from scratch if I wanted to have a say in the filling. It’s a recipe that doesn’t require any fussy ratios or semolina flour, which I appreciate because I seriously cannot be bothered with that. Here we go!

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Be sure to pour yourself a glass of wine. This is integral to the pasta making process. Really any dough. You need a good buzz going so the dough can’t hurt your feelings when it refuses to cooperate.

It also helps to have Animal Hoarders on, although you can substitute your trashy tv show of choice.

K, first make the dough the way the site I linked to makes the dough. You’ll know it’s ready when kneading it gets a lot more pleasant. They say smooth, and they mean it. By the end there it was not sticky, not dry, kind of springy it was like a softer stress ball. It gave positive feedback. The dough loves you, it wants to reassure you, everything will be okay says the pretty ball of dough.

Cover the dough in the blanket. It deserves that compassion after being so good to you. Leave it for ten minutes so it can achieve oneness with the universe.

Push it flat with your hands and cut it into five pieces. They don’t have to be equal, because you’re adaptable. You got this. Get those suckers rolled into balls, and in a row.

Now comes the part where you will become keenly aware that you don’t own a rolling pin. Improvise. I used a water glass, but you can use a blender or a hairspray can or a toddler’s arm. Any cylinder in your house, get creative.

This is a good time to make your husband a drink and suggest he go play that video game he just bought because, surprise, he’s home on time and you’re not ready. It will work. It always works.

I don’t know how I was supposed to do this, but I microwaved spinach with some margarine, stirred it to distribute it all, then put a pinch of spinach in each place I wanted a ravioli to be. Like, a rough grid. Then I laid on of the dough pieces on top of that, and I cut out the grid, and I pulled it apart and pinched the edges.

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Pursuant to the directions, which I suddenly decided to read again, I laid them out in a single layer on plates to dry. Flipped them over after a bit. They didn’t really dry though because they were full of hot, wet spinach.

After, like, a normal amount of time I got a pot of water on to boil and threw the mostly dry raviolis in. They weren’t as dry as finished pasta should be, but David was already home, and I needed to get a move on.

My trick is to get the water to a boil, throw the pasta in, let it get to a boil again, and then turn the heat on medium low. Let it stay on medium low for like fifteen minutes. It will keep boiling and the pasta will double or triple in size. If you’re looking to cut calories this is a fun trick because you feel obscenely full on a 1/2 cup of pasta. They just get so big!

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Incidentally, I made an entire package of spinach for this and used barely any of it. While everything was cooking I ate the rest. I highly recommend this step.

David wanted avocado, I wanted marinara. Both options are vegan. It came out delicious and was so easy. If I can make pasta, literally anyone can make pasta. The one advice I would give is let the pasta adequately dry. The recipe said 10-15 minutes drying, I allowed maybe 20 minutes because of the filling, neither was enough. It came out chewy. Make these the day before if you can so they can sit in the open air for as long as they need to to gain the consistency of normal dry pasta. They refrigerate no problem, and boil up quick.

All aboard the bandwagon!

Vis a vis my last post, I have gone vegan for a little while. For bikini reasons, not ethical reasons. We all know I’m not ethical.

In restructuring my diet I’ve been seeking out recipes for some of my favorite foods (burritos, biscuits, tuna casserole) that can be made vegan with substitutions or dropping ingredients altogether and substituting spices. And I’ve run across a lot of what I can only call cheating.

This is really common in things that are labelled “gluten free”. Either it was always gluten free, and the company just realized they could charge more and capitalize on a trend. Or they took something that does have gluten in it normally, and gave a half effort at doing it different, so anyone who really has celiacs will get sick from their “gluten free” products.

It’s also really common in vegan foods apparently. Specifically, I’d like to point out this recipe for Vegan Bread. I found that on Pinterest with the caption, “So glad I won’t have to buy the expensive vegan bread at the store anymore!”

I make bread, as a sort-of-hobby, and the only ingredients truly required for bread are flour, water, yeast, sugar, and salt. My favorite recipe ever, Amish White Bread, only has those ingredients, plus a little oil to make it less crumbly. The $1 loaves of generic bread that I buy down at the grocery store are also vegan, I just checked. Bread is a vegan food unless you specifically buy some fancy kind like eggwash. No one ever had to buy the expensive vegan brand, I don’t even know why that brand exists. Oh wait, yes I do. To make money off of the people who just went vegan and still don’t know the territory. There’s vegan oatmeal and vegan peanut butter and vegan soup, and all of those are vegan in their original form. Oatmeal is oats boiled in water, peanut butter is peanuts crushed with oil, soup is just boiling whatever you can find in your fridge in a pot of water and salt.

And I know what you’re saying, “what about the popular brands that include whey or glycerin?” Read the label, there are a whole lot of brands that don’t, and the generics almost always don’t. Buying a $5 can of soup is just silly when you don’t actually have to.

The other thing I noticed about that bread recipe I linked to up there: it includes a few unusual ingredients. I realize that while vegan I will have to rethink what I stock in my pantry, but I think it’s fair to say that most vegan recipes are an overcomplicated mess.

I looked up lunches earlier, and stumbled on this article that’s supposed to be about easy sack lunches. As a non vegan I would throw a nut bar, applesauce, and ham sandwich in my bag and go, so I was expecting now that I’m a vegan to be throwing a nut bar, applesauce, and hummus sandwich in my bag. Apparently I need to step up my game, because that is weak sauce compared to the Soba Noodles recipe featured in the article. Who the hell just keeps agave syrup lying around the house, and when will I ever use that again? Or this recipe from the article for Cauliflower Rice. I’m sorry, what was wrong with rice? What is so unvegan about rice that I need to have a complicated substitute?

Vegan recipes and vegan prepared foods seem to be a lot of expensive, often namebrand ingredients as a substitute for something that never needed substituting. Yeah, I could use quinoa instead of rice, and ground buckwheat instead of flour? But why do I need to? Why does every salad include sunchoke and durian, when I can just throw some spinach in a bowl with some italian dressing and have an easy, familiar lunch?

I dunno. I guess I get touchy about food. Mama likes to eat, but I’m not exactly made of money, nor do I feel like putting out unnecessary effort.

Vegan Schmegan

I realized earlier that my friend group has changed drastically enough that pretty much no one outside of my family was there for my vegan/vegetarian phase. Which is a funny thing to realize because that “phase” lasted like ten years.

I’m not going to get into the moral reasoning or why I transitioned in either direction, but I will say that it shaped my tastes pretty heavily, and even though I have no problem eating meat nowadays I still don’t eat much of it unless I’m with my husband. We went to the in-laws’ the other day and there was steak on the table that had been carefully marinated for several days, an absolute treat, and I just ate a huge salad soaked in vinegar and oil. Didn’t touch the meat, not interested.

Since Samson was born I’ve made several half-hearted attempts at dieting. I’ve got about 13 pounds sticking around from the pregnancy, and I know that after my next one I’ll have another 13 at least. And I don’t want to just jump a dress size every time I have a baby, plus the couple pounds people naturally gain every year or so. I know that pregnancies are healthier when your starting weight is lower, so it would be a favor to myself to get back to where I was last summer. But dieting is stupid and punishing and in my opinion drives people a little nutso. There’s just something about giving humans a numbers system like calories, we get weird about it and try to game the system. At one point I talked myself down from the recommended 1400 calories to 700 because I kept being like, “If I eat one less snack than yesterday, I’ll lose weight that much faster!” By the time I realized what I was doing, I was eating less than a two year old should. Then I stopped doing that and bought a cake.

I’m also not really looking for a “lifestyle change”. I hate it when people say “you shouldn’t diet, you should seek to change your lifestyle permanently.” Or when people say, “I’m a skinny person trapped in a fat person’s body.” And I hate this image that gets passed around tumblr and pinterest and wherever else.

Let’s be real here. I’m trying to lose some weight, but I will most likely find it again. You go through different stages in your life, and while it’s good to be healthy, there’s nothing wrong with trying to slim down for summer and then fattening up again once it’s winter (better known as cookie season). There’s nothing wrong with saying, “Huh, this dress doesn’t fit. Well, I have a week till the party.” And then going on a cleanse real quick. If you’re an athlete, that’s awesome, but I’m not and I see no reason I should have to eat and exercise like one for the rest of my natural born life. We will all get fat, old, and wrinkled. Accept it and eat the cake.

So, knowing that I am too insane in the membrane to count calories and knowing that I just don’t care enough to be super fit, how do I intend to shift my body mass? By going back to old habits.

Like I said, my tastes were heavily shaped by my earlier vegetarianism, I can slip back into it easy peasy. I (eventually) figured out how to get all my nutrition and vitamins, so I’ll still be healthy. And the food groups you cut out by going vegan just so happen to be the most calorically dense food groups. A cube of cheese is the same calorically as an entire apple, and I don’t know about you, but right now I eat way more than a single cube of cheese a day.

I started this morning, and I’m already doing better than I have the past week. It’s hard to say, “Oh, I know I’m hungry, but I’m not allowed to eat anymore.” It’s much easier to say, “Oh, I can’t eat that because it’s got milk and stuff, but I can totally eat as many rasberries as I want.”

Incidentally, raspberry boxes (y’know that normally cost $6 for a handful and a half) are only $1.50 right now. That may or may not be contributing to my choices.