One of the benefits of being a personal chef is learning about different foods, diets and cooking techniques. After cooking for a vegan client for a few months, I became very intrigued by the ability to cook versatile and satisfying dishes without the use of any meat, eggs or dairy products. I decided to give the vegan gig a try for myself for the first two weeks of the year. My first step was getting rid of any non-vegan items and packing my refrigerator full with as many fresh fruits, vegetables, soy yogurts and vegan butter as I could so I wouldn’t be tempted to retreat back to my normal diet. Next, making a few trips to local produce markets was a great, inexpensive way to get fresh, ripe and exotic fruits and vegetables. Because of the low prices, I was more inclined to try new varieties of produce rather than sticking to my normal apples and bananas routine. I also did a few internet searches for good vegan recipes and paged through a few vegan cookbooks. I wanted to keep this diet as whole and straight-forward as possible, so I didn’t buy any overly-processed products or man-made, synthetic foods.
So, the outcome?! It was great, I felt healthy and had a good amount of energy throughout the 14 days. I made a lot of soups, Indian foods, vegan muffins, veggie burgers and roasted vegetables-all of which I still enjoy even when I’m not on a vegan diet. I also juiced a lot thanks to the new Cuisinart juicer my boyfriend bought me for Christmas. The only word of caution is to start slowly, especially if you are not used to eating lots of fresh produce. Also, drink plenty of water. I had a few cramp/stomach issues the first week as my body was adjusting to the high amounts of plant fiber that was going into my body.
In the end, I found it interesting that when I was on the diet, I really didn’t miss any non-vegan foods. I think this was because I made sure that everything I cooked had plenty of flavor and spices to keep it interesting. Many people think that being on a vegan diet means eating celery sticks and tofu everyday, but its not true. If you approach it the right way, minimizing all animal products from your diet is a great way to step outside your normal food routine, stretch your culinary knowledge, recharge your diet and get back on track with whole, nutritious foods. I also learned to appreciate the good foods that the earth has to offer. Retreating back to real, unpackaged and non-processed foods realigns yours appreciation for the amazing things nature can provide.
Here are few things that made my vegan days easy and tasty. All of these things are great, even if you are not on a vegan diet. Feel free to contact me for any recipes or advice!
1. Earth Balance Butter-great to cook with and to top breads & muffins.
2. Vegetable Stock-for soups & sauces.
3. Cumin-my new favorite spice. It adds loads of smoky, hot flavor…kind of like a hot pepper without the heat. Great in vegetarian chili, veggie burgers and soups.
4. This vegan blueberry crumb muffin recipe; it’s delicious and healthy. I eat one every morning: http://www.deelicioussweets.com/2011/09/vegan-blueberry-muffins.html
5. Frozen fruits & vegetables-aways great to have on hand, especially in the winter when fresh produce is sparse.
6. Gwyneth Paltrows “My Fathers Daughter” cookbook.