Sunday, 1 February 2015

The End of Veganuary: I made it!

January has come to an end and so has Veganuary. I made it! I was successfully a healthy and happy vegan for this month… and as I write this, I still am. If you haven’t done so already, please read – or at least skim through – my previous blog post on Veganuary, earlier this month.

So, I did a whole  (31 day) month without:
  • meat – Easiest thing in the world for me as I haven’t eaten meat in more than 14 years and don’t ever plan to again.
  • fish – Pretty easy, although I eat fish (I became a pescetarian – person who eats fish but not meat – about 4 years ago, after being a vegetarian previously) but could easily go without now and for the foreseeable future if I wanted to.
  • eggs – Pretty easy again, as I dislike eggs on their own although I like cakes and such with eggs in them!
  • cheese – Not difficult to give up for a month but long-term… I do genuinely love cheese.
  • chocolate – Slightly difficult, particularly knowing that I have a stash from Christmas waiting to be eaten. But dark chocolate is dairy-free, so I still got my choccy fix this month!
  • other dairy – Easy-peasy. I swapped cow’s milk for soya milk and normal margarine for a dairy-free sunflower spread. This is only difficult, again, when it comes to cakes and other tasty treats (like not being able to eat birthday cakes that are brought into work!). But it’s certainly possible to bake my own cakes without dairy and buy ready-made treats from specialist dairy-free/vegan places. It’s just not so convenient.
To start with, I didn’t share all of my vegan meals on Instagram/Twitter – in the previous blog post mentioned above, I only shared a few photos. But as I started to get into the swing of Veganuary, I began sharing a photo of almost every meal. Partly because it sort of made it more real that I was taking part in the global campaign, but also because I was genuinely pleased with most, if not all, of the meals I cooked up and dined on.

If nothing else, Veganuary has made me a more experimental and inventive cook – because meals don’t need meat, fish, or dairy to be tasty, healthy and visually exciting. Veganuary has actually made me excited about cooking and excited about food. I kept thinking about what I was going to cook/eat next, almost immediately after my previous tasty vegan meal! I’ve used ingredients that, although I may eat occasionally, I don’t generally tend to cook with on a daily and weekly basis – avocado, kale and butternut squash, to name a few. And I have used a variety of pulses, beans, lentils, tofu etc. – rather than just sticking some cheese on top of a meal (!) as I may have done previously – to add protein. But most importantly I have used ingredients in different ways to make colourful, nutritional and super-duper-tasty food and I haven’t felt that they lacked for anything dairy or otherwise. And I’ve felt good, really good. 

Take a look for yourself at what I’ve been eating…

Kidney bean and peanut butter ‘meatballs’ – my first ‘vegan’ meal. It was also enjoyed by my boyfriend.
Simple stir fry veggies with a peanut sauce and sunflower seeds, on white rice.
Butternut squash, carrot, chickpea and kale soup plus mini naans that had been in my freezer a little while.
Homemade hummus/houmous.
Carrot and celery sticks, plus apple and strips of seedy bread with the remaining houmous.
Borlotti bean and butternut squash chilli with bulgar wheat, topped with avocado and roasted seeds.
Decent dark chocolate is dairy-free.
Avocado pasta with spinach and tomatoes.
Salad of tofu, sweet potato, butternut squash, tomato, spinach and kale.
Butternut squash, courgette, apricot and chickpea tagine with spiced cous cous, kale and flaked almonds.
Falafel and sweet potato wedges, plus salad and homemade soya yogurt/tahini/ketchup dressing.
Which was for my boyfriend too! (and he thoroughly enjoyed.)
No-cheese, no-risotto rice risotto – white rice, kale, squash, mushrooms, peas, red onion and almonds.
Green soup – kale, broccoli and green (but they look brown) lentils.
Vegetable and lentil bake with chopped nuts and sunflower seeds. This a large dish so I made enough for several meals all in one go!
Leftovers from the vegetable and lentil bake with pasta, plus additional kale.
Apple and banana oaty crumble-type cupcakes with bonus sunflower seeds, sultanas and chopped nuts. My first and only real attempt at any kind of vegan baking – I don’t have many baking ingredients kicking around!
Burrito made from yet more lentil and vegetable bake leftovers plus vegan ‘mozzarella’, on a bed of spinach.
First vegan treat in Inspiral Lounge (vegan café), Camden – raw chocolate and avocado tart with black coffee.
Ethiopian streetfood in Camden, a combination of white rice, vegetables and two types of lentils.
Tastiest soup ever! – sweet potato, carrot, chickpea, green pepper and tomato, spiced up with chilli and cumin. Topped with roasted pumpkin seeds and some sunflower seeds too.
Spiced cous cous, vegetable and vegan ‘mozzarella’ stuffed peppers.
Vegetable pasta bake topped with vegan ‘mozzarella’ and chopped nuts.
The colourful contents of the [above] pasta bake
These little dairy-free sweet potato brownies were a gift to me from Sophie (at work)’s mum! Interesting story behind the woman whose recipe it was (follow the link to go to the recipe on her blog).
Bulgar wheat with cumin-spiced chickpeas, plus an array of veggies including red pepper, mushroom, spinach and kale. Also, roasted pumpkin seeds.
Curry/soup made from coconut milk, red lentils, butternut squash, sweet potato, carrots, cauliflower, red pepper, sweetcorn and spinach! Topped with flaked almonds, of course. I did a big batch of this – two curries and two soups (soups were more blended without chunks of anything and more watered down!)
Remember the kidney bean and peanut butter ‘meatballs’ at the top of this collection of photos? This is the leftover portion (from the freezer, obviously), mixed up with kale, mushrooms and sweetcorn. Served on spaghetti and topped with avocado.
I have no idea what to call this other than colourful and tasty! Baked sweet potato with warm salad of kale, butternut squash, chickpeas, mushrooms, cauliflower, tomatoes and avocado.
My last Veganuary breakfast and the only breakfast I bothered to photograph (as I mainly just had porridge with soya milk). Soya yogurt with a sprinkling of oats, sunflower seeds and a dollop of apricot jam. Toast, one piece with peanut butter and one piece with sliced avocado. Plus a big pot o’ black coffee.
I ended Veganuary with a treat – cheese-free pizza at Pizza Express, which was delicious! Mildly spicy tomato sauce, artichoke, mushroom, spinach, pine nuts and rocket.
And to finish: dairy-free raspberry sorbet and espresso. Lovely!

Am I going to stay a vegan? No, I’m not.

Why did I bother doing Veganuary then? Because I wanted to challenge myself. I’d never considered being vegan before, I kind of didn’t think that I actually could do it. But it did and I could and it was great (for all the reasons already mentioned above and in my previous blog post!).

So, why am I not stay vegan? Because I don’t want to and this is, of course, entirely up to me. I love cheese and I will continue to eat cheese, plus I want to eat fish when I go to Japan again – so not becoming a vegetarian either. HOWEVER, I will be eating a lot more dairy-free and fish-free meals from now on, as almost everything I cooked and ate was delicious. Meals should not be reserved for one month of the year or one diet alone. I absolutely will do Veganuary again next year. I might even pick another month this year to go vegan again!

So, could you go vegan for a month? It’s easier, tastier and healthier than you think.

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