A Little Bit Vegan

It’s all going a little bit vegan! Much like lots of other houses up and down the UK we’ve had an almost imperceptible shift leaning towards eating less meat. Once this starts you can’t help but find yourself seeking out veggie recipes and therefore vegan recipes too with never heard of before vegan ingredients like jackfruit, tempeh and nutritional yeast. After that dairy starts to wane in the fridge and you are on your way to a new habit.

I always suspected that what I was eating was having a detrimental effect on how I felt and I should probably take some time and make some effort to understand what suited me and what didn’t. I don’t know why I never did this before. Take your pick of lazy, distracted, disorganised, all of the above! It was clear that certain food would send me into a bloated slightly sweaty food coma all afternoon. For example: the sensational New York bloomer from the sandwich van that comes to my office. Wow that is a heck of a sandwich and I could never resist it, but it gave my system hell and was the size of my head.

The other culinary challenge in our house is the kids meal times. Our kids are just the same as thousands of others. Fussy, keeping their beady eyes on their plates for any infiltrating flecks of green or anything new. They have to be bribed with gold stars to try anything different and will often machine gun peas and lumps of chewed carrot across the kitchen. Our meal times resemble a bush tucker trial that often involve soothing wine for me and truck loads of patience as my daughter insists on tying a knot in every noodle on her plate before eating each one individually or my son makes mashed potato hand prints on everything within reach and jams peas up his nose. These are not the kinds of table manners you can share with other diners and often the entire proceeding is interrupted with a quick dance off to the Lego Batman soundtrack. I despair.

All of that being said there are a few tricks that mums’ can have up their sleeves. If you are having trouble getting your kids’ to eat veg then veg has to get inventive, silly or sneaky. My daughter will eat peas, but especially so if she gets to chug them from a cup frat boy style. Making veg the star of a dinner is a great way to do this and thus all this veggie meal planning and recipe reading has been very helpful. I can now make vegan “meat balls” that at least one of the kids will eat and am on my way to bucking our house hold trend of fish fingers, beans, sausages, repeat.

None of these changes happened for me until there was a spark. I wanted to eat less meat, was sick of cooking the same boring meals over and over, was mindless whilst shopping and hopeless at managing food. The catalyst I needed was watching the Netflix program What the Health. As my interest in making some changes was already there, it did have a fairly jolting effect on me, although of course you can take some of the more alarming elements of the program with a pinch of salt. As with mostly everything to do with nutrition and the food industry you can absorb or debunk advice as easy as pie. I chose to take the program’s guidance.

If you want to get serious about sorting out meal times there isn’t really any way around it you have to plan. I used to quickly abandon any attempts at this, but it feels so much easier now, as there are a myriad of resources available. We shop online with Ocado and there is a recipe section with easy links to products. I follow the recipe in a rough fashion and then swap out items if I think they are too premium or i’m not keen for whatever reason. Pinterest is brimming with recipes and BBC Good Food is also useful and easy. Once you start showing a bit of interest in food then there are a myriad of blogs and posts that will find you. The proverbial cookies aren’t always sinister. I like recipe suggestions, so i’ll take that silver lining. If Big Brother is watching me, I may as well get some cooking advice out of it. I’ve finally managed to pay attention to cooking tips and techniques. This means I can quickly skim read a recipe and cook something healthy and interesting rather than agonisingly reading and deciphering recipes, losing my spot and re-reading again. A little bit of focus has gone a long way.

After a few weeks of doing this I have a rolling spreadsheet of dinners. I know I am such a geek. I create a short list of favourites and add a few new dinners to try each week. The recipes are all online and I save the links so I can plan, shop for groceries and cook all from my laptop. I buy the ingrediants, then cook off the list and keep rolling forward like that with roughly two smaller shops a week instead of one big one. I’ve learned a few new tricks and lost a few pounds in the process. I managed to sneak some hidden veg into the kids, the husband isn’t complaining (much) and we have a new breakfast habit of vegan pancakes that gets the kids up and racing to the kitchen in the morning. I’ve finally started using my Nutribullet instead of just intending to use it and hopefully making good choices stocking up the pantry and fridge.

Here are some of my favourites:

Vegan pancakes, made in the Nutribullet in under five minutes.

Noodle stir fry, this is a no brainer and honestly I don’t know why I couldn’t make a stir fry before without one of those little packets of stir fry sauce! Ginger, garlic, onions plus soy, sesame oil and five spice – doh!

Ponzo is new to me and delicious.

Chimichurri on anything. Shove all the ingredients in a Nutribullet and add the result to pretty much any dinner. We are finally using that hallowed apple cider vinegar that languishes in the pantry.

Guilt free baking. Once you get the hang of vegan baking you realise you can have your cake and eat it. Banana bread is great for using up grotty bananas. These can then be used for saintly school snacks. The Simple Veganista has a tonne of recipes and hints, plus a great banana bread recipe.

Veganaise Siracha, on anything…

Mini tortilla wraps to make a sandwich alternative for a quick fix lunch. I find these easier than man handling the full size ones and the kids love them too.

Bircher museli mixed in an old jam jar. Take porridge oats, cover with almond milk and add any other bits and pieces you fancy like grated apple, sultanas, honey, etc then eat once the milk is well soaked into the oats. This has stopped me grabbing my usual 4pm snickers bar from the vending machine at work. I’ve started added dairy free coconut yoghurt which is lovely.

Coffee from my stove top pot rather than a pod and then adding Oaty Barrista as I can’t for the life of me stop almond milk from splitting.

Frozen veg. Keep a stock pile of great veg in the freezer so you are never caught short with nothing but a wilted cabbage or gunky courgette in the bottom of the fridge. I keep frozen peas (of course), but also edamame beans, avocado chunks, beetroot burgers and roasted Mediterranean veg.

It’s been easy to do this. Far easier than I expected and I feel a whole lot better. So now instead of reluctant foodie and kitchen dodger, I’m a little bit vegan and cooking healthy, yummy food without any real bother at all.