The 7 Day Vegan Challenge
I am a Southern girl born and raised. Here in the South we love our fried chicken and red-eye gravy. We love to cook it, we love to serve it and we love to eat it. We take it to funerals, we take it to weddings, and we even take it to the neighbor who just left the hospital with a coronary by-pass. In the South when a little girl is born, she enters this world learning to fry chicken and whip up-country gravy. Food is everywhere. I am not talking about good healthy food. I am talking about the chicken fried in a pound of grease, the whipped potatoes made with a cup of milk and ½ pound of butter, biscuits dipped in red-eye gravy with a slab of fried ham on the side. That is the South. We are known for it. Paula Deen built an empire on good Southern cooking, convincing people to cook with a ton of butter and fry everything in grease. My mother was no exception to the rule. Every morning before school, she would fry the bacon serving it along side a heaping stack of French toast covered in butter and syrup. Dinner always consisted of something fried in grease and covered in butter. That was just what a good Southern wife and mother did; a hearty meal. Her cooking style and methods carried over to me. I, in turn fed my child the same heavy breakfast every morning and the same cholesterol filled dinner at night.
In my 30’s I gained weight. My blood sugar was out of control and my cholesterol and blood pressure went through the roof. The doctor said exercise, eat better healthier foods and take these pills. Exercise consisted of going to work everyday. Healthier foods were foreign to me. I grew up eating what all us Southern woman eat and I like most American swallowed the pill like it was a cure to all problems. Nothing changed. My weight continued to increase, my energy was non-existent and I swallowed more pills.
In my 40’s I was diagnosed with diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The doctor gave me the verdict. Very simply if I did not change my ways I could die, early! I was determined to get it right. The problem was I had no idea how to even get started. I was taught to cook by my mother who was taught by her mother and so on and so on. Who is the world was going to teach me any different?
Everywhere we look food is thrown in our face. Fast food is everywhere. Biggy this and upsize that. Would you like to add an apple pie or fries with every order? Every commercial is directed at food and who offers more food for less money. I was determined that quiet frankly I was in big trouble. I was addicted to food and soda. Not healthy food or diet soda. Oh no not for this Southern girl- it was coke and fast food all the way for me.
On my way home from work I stopped at Wendy’s to get dinner. Like normal, cooking was too much trouble after putting in a long day. Plus my child is grown I have no one to care for except myself. Biggy size everything please. I laid out my treasures on the coffee table, poured a large coke and flipped it to Oprah. Today she had given her staff the 7 day Vegan challenge. I sat watching the first half of the show thinking these people had lost their minds. Who is the world would every do something so totally nuts? About half way through the show Lisa Ling was going to visit a slaughter-house in Colorado. Believe it or not they were allowing Oprah’s cameras inside. It started pretty basic, cows grazing in a green field. My first thought was that they were rather thin. Ling explained that these cows were just delivered to the slaughter-house. They would live in this pasture for 2 months where they were fed corn and corn by products. The next frame showed the same cows 2 months later. They were so fat they could hardly waddle. The next thing we see are the cows being led through a maze, like a mouse looking for cheese. The owner of the meat plant explained that the cows were kept in the dark and moved slowly because it kept them calm and this was the most humane way. Later I spoke to my dad who is 89 years old and grew up in an era where families raised their own food and butchered their own beef. He explained that this was not done to be “humane” it was done so the cows would not work off the fat the slaughter-house had just spent two months putting on them. Fatter cows mean more profit. Next the cows were moved up a conveyor belt where a man stood behind them and shot a bolt into the cow’s brain, rendering it brain-dead and pain-free. Again the owner explained the reasoning for him standing behind the cow was so the cow was kept calm and by rendering it brain-dead, it no longer felt pain. Again her claim was it was the most humane way. Once again my dad disputed her claim. He explained the reason the man stood behind the cow was not in order to be humane but if he didn’t the cow would see the bolt coming and run the man into the ground from fear. Last the cows were moved into stalls where the blood was drained and the meat packaged and stored for sale to the public. Ten billion animals are slaughtered each year in America; eighty five percent of those are cows. This particular slaughter-house is the largest in the US and reportedly the most humane and clean, supplying 75% of all meat to the largest grocery chains in America. Well this was more than I could stand. Suddenly my biggy burger did not taste so good.
I have decided to take Oprah’s 7 day challenge. I make this choice not just for the health benefits involved but the absolute horrific number of animals slaughtered in the US each year. Today I begin my research. I want to read every article and book I can find. I head to the library for any information about this new way of eating. Vegans! I have heard the word. What do Vegans actually eat? What do they do? Is it difficult to be vegan? Is being vegan safe for people with my medical history? I guess the questions are normal for something out of the norm. In my research I find there was actually a vegan movement. Wow who knew?
A man by the name of Donald Watson coined the word. He defines Veganism as “A way of living which excludes all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, the animal kingdom, and includes a reverence for life. It applies to the practice of living on the products of the plant kingdom to the exclusion of flesh, fish, fowl, eggs, honey, animal milk and its derivatives, and encourages the use of alternatives for all commodities derived wholly or in part from animals.”
Mr. Watson determined that most people who did not eat meat called themselves vegetarians. “The founders of the Vegetarian Society of Great Britain applied this word in 1847 to describe a certain kind of diet people adopted, but the word did not always mean a commitment to avoid all forms of violence against other conscious beings. In the 1900s, vegetarianism commonly described a person who does not eat the flesh of mammals, fish, or birds, but whether to avoid eggs, dairy products, honey, wool, leather and so forth was not always clear”. Mr. Watson wanted to make sure it was made clear. Vegetarianism depicts a diet, while veganism suggests the avoidance, as much as possible, of harm to animals in the cultivation of crops, using them in research, wearing their skins or fur.
Holy Crap let me get this straight,I will not eat or wear any animal product because I choose to avoid living a life based on dominating other conscious beings. That means no fish, chicken beef and I must give up my favorite Prada’s because they are made of leather. Oh hell to the no- that is just not happening. Maybe this Southern girl needs to rethink this Vegan commitment. I think I will try to go “vegan” in the way Oprah challenged her staff. I will eat vegan but I under no circumstances are giving up my Prada’s or my Hermès Birkin. So maybe I can not go “vegan”in the truest sense of the word, but I could find a healthier, friendlier to the world around me way to eat.
I begin with cleaning out my cabinets and refrigerator. I admit I have a refrigerator in my garage and have decided not to throw out everything but simply move it out of sight for the challenge. I start with the freezer. Hamburger, steaks, chicken, fish, crawfish- all gone. Frozen fries oh thank god! Wait the package says made with milk! What the hell is that about? By the time I am done my freezer contains frozen vegetables and nothing else. Next to the refrigerator. Everything I read is made with milk or eggs. Mayonnaise, French salad dressing, Italian dressing has milk in it. Who freaking knew? When I am done there is nothing but ketsup, mustard and un-sweet tea left. The cabinets are a nightmare. Microwave popcorn- butter-gone, Pasta- contains eggs for binding-gone, Can beans- seasoned with Pork- gone, Nutty Butters- contain milk- Oh sweet Jesus I am getting a little worried now. My pantry now contains can tomatoes, homemade pickles, mushrooms, corn and peas. Everything is gone. I feel a little weak in the knees. What can you possibly eat that does not contain a binding agent of milk or eggs?
First thing I have to do is find out exactly what I can eat. I start talking to friends, reading the net, and hitting the library. There are many products out there that do not contain dairy products. http://www.veganstore.com/vegan-food-items.html is one of my favorites. It gave me several ideas on how to get started, what I could eat, and where I could shop. Loaded with this information I start planning my menu for the next seven days.
Menu Planning Day:
Monday Breakfast – Bagel with vegan Butter Lunch- salad with Greek Dressing (see recipe below) Dinner steamed veggies with dirty rice. Snack for the day is carrots with vegan dip (recipe below) Total cost ($7.98 per serving)
Tuesday Breakfast- Bagel with Vegan Butter Lunch- Leftover vegs and rice Dinner- vegan Shepherds Pie (see recipe below) Snack is the same as above Total Cost (8.97 per serving)
Wednesday Breakfast- Bagel with Vegan Butter Lunch Leftovers Dinner Vegan Chili (see recipe below) Snack is Celery with dip Total Cost ($10.00 per serving)
Thursday Breakfast- Bagel with Vegan butter Lunch Leftovers Dinner- Portobello and Veggie Fajitas Snack is dip and cukes (Total Cost $13.00 per serving)
Friday Breakfast – Bagel with Vegan Butter Lunch- Morning Star veggie Burgers Dinner- Leftovers Snack is celery, carrots and tomatoes (Total Cost per serving $6.98)
Saturday- Bagel with vegan butter Lunch- Salad Dinner- Morning Star Meatless chicken Patties Snack is celery and dip (Total Cost $7.86 per serving)
Sunday- Bagel with vegan Butter Lunch- Taco soup Dinner- Leftovers Snack is chips made with corn and homemade salsa (Total Cost $ 9.00 per serving)
Vegan Dip (Marianne Turner)
IN a food processor….or with an electric beater…blend 2 or 3 cans of beans (pinto, black, kidney, etc) add avocado (either blend in with beans or add diced after) put bean dip in bowl; add diced tomatoes, onions, avocado and 1 package of taco seasoning. Mix together. you can dip celery, crackers, carrots, cukes or whatever you want in this dip. It is amazing!s, WHATEVER in th
Grilled Portobello Mushrooms and Veggie Fajitas
3 T. balsamic vinegar
3 T. olive oil
2 T. freshly chopped parsley
1 T. garlic, minced
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. freshly ground black pepper
4 medium Portobello mushrooms, washed well, and patted dry
2 red onions, sliced
2 red or orange peppers, destemmed, deseeded, and cut into quarters lengthwise
2 green peppers, destemmed, deseeded, and cut into quarters lengthwise
2 jalapeno peppers, destemmed, deseeded, and cut in half lengthwise
4 – 8-inch flour tortillas
1 recipe Green Chiles and Almond Cream, optional
In a large bowl, place the vinegar, olive oil, parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper, and whisk well to combine. Add all of the vegetables and toss well to thoroughly coat the vegetables with the marinade. Set the vegetables aside and allow them to marinate for 15 minutes. Place the vegetables on a hot grill and grill for 3-5 minutes per side or until tender. Transfer the grilled vegetables to a cutting board and cut them into strips. The tortillas can be warmed on the grill, if desired. Transfer the vegetables to a platter for service. Allow guests to build their own fajitas by filling tortillas with the grilled vegetables and topping them with a little of the Green Chiles and Almond Cream, if desired.
I added tomatoes and regular mushrooms to this recipe. I also added cooked blacked beans to the fajitas when completed. This recipe can be done inside in a hot skillet as well as on the grill. Just add a little extra virgin olive oil to the skillet and let it get hot and smoking before adding the vegetables to it.
Salad Dressing (Marianne Turner)
Mix Olive Oils (you decide how much oil) with Balsamic Vinegar (again you decide the amount) a spoonful of mustard, Spoonful Greek Cavalier Seasoning – Shake well and refrigerate. Depending on if you like more vinegar taste, add more if you like more oil add more. This recipe can be made to your taste. This dressing is amazing and a big shout of love and thanks to Marianne for creating it and sharing.
VEGAN THREE BEAN CHILI
- 1 6 oz can tomato paste shopping list
- 1 cup diced tomatoes shopping list
- 2 fresh jalapeños, diced shopping list
- 1 cubanelle pepper, chopped shopping list
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped shopping list
- 2 medium white onions, chopped shopping list
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced shopping list
- 2 tbsp chili powder shopping list
- 2 tsp oregano shopping list
- 2 15 oz cans dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed shopping list
- 1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed shopping list
- 1 15 oz can navy beans, drained and rinsed shopping list
- 2 cups corn kernels (fresh or frozen) shopping list
- 3 tbsp molasses shopping list
- In a large pot, heat ¼ cup of water. When the water starts sizzling, add the onions and garlic. Stir until the onions are soft. Add the jalapeno and cubanelle and fry for a few more seconds. Add the tomato paste and tomatoes, followed by the chili powder, and oregano. Stir a few times then let boil and simmer. Add the beans, corn and molasses. Let the pot simmer, covered, for at least 40 minutes – longer will distribute the flavor better. If the chili is too thick, add a little water; if it’s too thin, uncover the pot. Add the bell peppers, stir, and simmer for a minute or two before serving (peppers should stay crunchy).
- I added Morning Star meatless crumbles to this recipe.
VEGAN SHEPPERDS PIE
Dice the potatoes and steam them until tender. Mash, adding enough soy milk to make them smooth and spreadable. Add salt to taste. Set aside. In a large pot, heat the water or stock and cook the onions for 3 minutes. Add the pepper, carrots, and celery and cook for 5 minutes over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, then cover the pan and cook an additional 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tomatoes, kidney beans, paprika, pepper, and soy sauce, then cover and cook 10 to 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Put the vegetables into a 9″ x 13″ baking dish and spread the mashed potatoes evenly over the top. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake for 25 minutes, until hot and bubbly.
Wooowooo today is shopping day. I sit down with several friends who have agreed to do the challenge with me. There are 5 of us, all committed to eating healthy vegan style for 7 long days. No meat or meat by-products including eggs, milk or cheese will be consumed. The five of us head to Publix. Publix offers a wide variety of foods that claim to be vegan. As the five of us are walking through Publix seeing all the things we will give up for 7 days, I am really starting to rethink this idea. Every package I pick up contains milk, eggs or cheese. Seriously, no chocolate for seven days? Who am I kidding? Pasta, Bread, even vegetables in the can all contains some form of animal product. It is used for binding. Mmmmm if it is used for binding in the package what the hell is it doing to my insides? Ok after that appalling thought I am back on track.
My grocery cart is packed full: fresh vegetables, fruits and a lot of beans. Morning Star makes several products that are vegan that look pretty tasty. Once we reach check out my total came to $275.00 and that is without a T-Bone or chocolate anywhere to be seen. Already friend one e has bailed on us. She refuses to spend “more money in 7 days for food she doesn’t even want to eat than what she spends in a month on food she does want to eat”. I agree somewhat. It was rather expensive. However, I am already at checkout, I am committed.
February 7th Day One of the Challenge.
Already two more “friends” have bailed on me. Now there are only two of us. Are we insane and totally lost our minds. I am not sure but I do know I am excited for this new way of eating. I have decided under the care of my physician to stop all diabetic medicine during this 7 day challenge. For the first time in 15 years I will not be filling my body with pharmaceuticals in which I have no idea what they contain. Keep in mind I am required to call my doctor once a day with blood sugar readings and if for any reason he feels the numbers are too high he will put an end to the no med living.
My blood sugar is a little high this morning, about 167. This is not horrible numbers but we would like to see them around 100 in the morning before meals. I will check my blood sugar levels two hours after each meal. They should all be around the 100-125 range.
Bagel with no meat this morning. Holy crap what a concept. This is the first time in many years I did not feed my face with bacon and egg sandwiches for breakfast. I am going to starve to death. Around 9 am I check my sugar and it is 127. Amazing- I am excited and now I am more enthusiastic than ever to make this work. I munched on veggie sticks and dip all morning. (yep I am feeling a little gassy- Beano it is) Lunch time finally…. only to be rewarded with a salad. I love the dressing. I am just not feeling the idea of eating like a rabbit for seven long days. Holy batman it is only day one. Will I ever make it to the seventh day? Blood Sugar check at 2p.m is a little high at 148. Dinner is veggies with dirty rice . No oil or butter is used except for the Vegan butter. Blood Sugar check is 160. Ok now I am discouraged. I want meat I want cheese and I want eggs! Why the hell am I torturing myself for levels not low enough to make a difference? Bedtime is coming early tonight. I admit I am a little impatient- I want results today. I mean I suffered an entire day with no chocolate, no bacon, nothing I normally eat. Where are the results I expected to see?
February 8th– Day Two of the challenge
Blood Levels after Bagel were 140. Off to a fairly good start. Again I am craving my meat, eggs and cheese but I am not hungry. In the research I conducted I found that your body will actually go through withdrawals from processed foods. I think it is hitting me. (Like a ton of bricks) Snacks are good but damn I want chocolate. Seriously I am daydreaming of little Crunch bars that are right now at this minute in a bag in my bottom desk drawer. They are crunchy and milk filled goodness just right there. I swear I can smell it. Lunch is leftovers. Blood Sugar levels at 123. No bad. This work day seems much longer and I think my stomach hurts from lack of chocolate or maybe it’s all the beans I have eaten. Either way it doesn’t feel so good. Dinner oh please be something good. Vegan Shepherds Pie- already I am thinking this surely can not be too good. Remember Southern girl with Irish blood. I want Lamb and Butter and Milk. I called my mother and explained what I was making today for dinner. I swear it was out of that movie:”My Big fat Greek wedding”. Her exact words were “What… no meat…. Add lamb” Oh my sweet sweet mother I want to so bad. But no this Pie will consist of nothing but veggies. It was a lot of work and very time consuming but it is finished. It looks like Shepherds Pie, it even kind of smells like Shepherds Pie. Oh my it is really good. I actually love it. It was warm and filling and I am content. Blood Sugar levels two hours later are 101. Ok maybe I can do this!
February 9th Day Three of Challenge
Blood Levels are good at 127, Breakfast is Bagel with vegan butter. Getting use to it I guess. Still miss the bacon and eggs. But I am not starving and my blood sugar levels are good. Lunch consist of leftover Shepherds Pie. It is still good the second day. I think next time I will add Morning Star meatless crumbles. I think I need to at least think I am eating meat. I know the cow story was sad but let’s face it I am Southern born and bred- we eat meat! My Blood Sugar levels again are in the low 100 range. This is a good sign and my doctor is pleased. Tonight it is Vegan Chili. The recipe was a little time consuming but the results were awesome. I am completely full and it tasted good. Again I think next time I will add the meatless crumbles. Hey wait a minute I just said next time! Doctor visit in the afternoon to discuss levels.
Dinner was good, blood sugar levels are excellent my blood pressure has dropped 10 points and the doctor is pleased. I am lying on my couch watching all my shows when all of a sudden I need chocolate again. I do not mean I am having a craving. I mean I am having full out stomach twisting withdrawals. I can smell in and taste it. I want it NOW. Seriously I am miserable all of a sudden. I am questioning the whole challenge and what I am actually going to accomplish. Will the results be worth it? I need to go to bed- right now! Four Days to go.
February 10th Day Four of the Challenge
Bagel again this morning. I will admit that is getting a little old. But my blood sugar levels are at 120 this morning before and at 130 after. Great numbers. I have now been “vegan” for Four days and pharmaceutical free. I feel amazing. I have a lot more energy and I do not feel as sluggish. By 9am I am not sleepy and tired, which is what happens to a diabetic when their levels get either too high or too low. I stay up later at night and sleep the full eight hours. I wake up feeling more refreshed. My jeans are a little looser, which pleases me very much.
Tonight I had Mushroom and Vegetable fajitas, which were amazing. The recipe was easy and fun to make. My blood sugar again after dinner is 123. Excellent. I think I am beginning to get the hang of this. I will not lie and say I do not miss my bacon. Chocolate, eggs, cheese. However I will say I feel 100% better without all the processed garbage in my system.
February 11th Day Five of the Challenge
Today I had fruit for breakfast. Banana and Cantaloupe with a few mixed nuts was very filling. My blood sugar once again was in the 120 range. I am pleased. On my way to work I am thinking about this new way of eating. Can I possibly stick to this after the challenge is over? I am not sure. I know I love the way I feel and love my blood sugar is controlled with medicine. I know it is better for me in the long run. However, I question my commitment to the whole thing. I am a lazy eater. I want fast, quick and simple. Kind of like a drive through. My mother spent hours cooking for a large family. Although the food was not healthy, she invested the time in cooking for her kids every morning and every night. I am just not my mother. My son is grown and I am on my own. I just am not sure I can commit to the time and energy needed to cook healthy food every night. I worked all day I am tired. Mmmmm new thoughts. This diet is very time consuming, preparation time, shopping time, now thinking time.
Dinner tonight is left overs. Vegan Chili, Shepherds Pie, veggies steams and Wild Rice. Dear God please get me through two more days with no chocolate.
February 12th Day Six of the Challenge
Blood Sugar levels this morning are great at 110. I am excited that this might actually work out. I have a busy day planned in order to keep my mind off of food. First a trip to the beach, then the grocery store for the week ahead. The beach was wonderful today. Everywhere I look people are munching on snacks from the local vendors. Of course none of this is actually on my vegan plan. I am a little dishearted and decided to head out to the grocery store. As I walk through Publix I start to think about the week behind me and the week to come. I realize that I feel good. I have tons of energy. I have put no pharmaceuticals in my body for 7 days and I think I have lost a few pounds. I have not died from lack of “junk” and I think maybe this is a good idea. I am going up and down every aisle in Publix looking at all the items that I normally buy. However, I catch myself looking at the labels and then setting it back on the shelf. More and more I am searching for foods with less dairy, not processed and healthier. Oh my what has happen to this Southern girl? I found Morning Star sausage, burgers, chicken patties and Ezekiel Bread- all vegan. I am checking out and I realize there is no meat, nor chocolate, nor dairy products in my cart. Hey I did not mean to do that. The challenge is up tomorrow I can eat all the crap I want. On my way home I stop at a health food store called Body-B-Healthy close to my house. Why not- I had never been there before and it might be interesting. The woman at the store was wonderful and full of information and suggestions on living a healthy lifestyle. She gave me ‘boom CHOCO boom”. Halleluya !! the angels are singing and rejoicing. Chocolate that is VEGAN!! Dairy Free Rice milk bar full of yummy goodness.. I can not wait to get out of that store and put that chocolate in my mouth. I ate two of tem before I ever got the two miles down the road to my house. Life is definetly looking up. The web site for my favorite person in the world this week is-
February 13th Day Seven of the Challenge
Sunday is finally here. The last day of the challenge has finally arrived. I have a lot to consider today. First of all my trip to the store yesterday yielded no meats, dairy products or anything that could be catergorized as junk. I am not sure when that decision was made exactly. It just seemed kind of second nature to try to buy healthy products. I have spent a great deal of time talking to my friends about this whole vegan thing and I have read numerous articles and books on the subject. Now the decision on whether to continue falls on me. My blood sugar levels have been amazing throughout the process, which pleases my doctor. I have been medication free, which pleases me. I have more energy, sleep better and have lost weight. Some people may be thinking- well then it is a no brainer. However, it is not just as easy as that. I have gone through food withdrawals, been irritable as hell, gassy, and just depressed. Granted most of this was at the beginning of the week, but none the less it is just the facts. I have found that the most difficult of this journey into healthy living is that the world around me does not want me to be healthy. Everywhere I turn someone is selling Girl Scout cookies or offering biggy fried or biggy sodas. Every restaurant I went it fails to offer a vegan alternative. I found that it is close to impossible to go anywhere and get anything that is not cooked in grease, fried in animal fat, contains dairy or is manufactured on equipment that produces products which contain animal by products. I have decided that for me the challenge was a wonderful learning enlightening experience. I am grateful I was able to do it. However, the reality of it is this… it is expensive, time consuming and difficult. I have decided that my choice will be to change my eating habits for the better but I am not vegan. Sorry folks I am Southern born and bred- we eat meat! I am a Floridian and crawfish boil season is upon us. I am sorry the little bugger has a face I am eating him! I have decided that I will continue to eat vegan at home. My home will no longer contain junk foods, dairy products or meat. I will continue to eat salads and vegan dips, not because it contains no animal products but because it was simple and it tasted good. However, the next time I am invited out to eat- I am going. I may leave the butter off the potato and I might even order something healthy but I will not deny myself this simple pleasure just for the sake of being “vegan”. I have lost 11 pounds and my doctor has decided as long as my blood sugars stay within the levels they have been I am not required to take medications. So what have I learned…. I learned how to eat healthier. I learned I am not controlled by the foods I eat. I learned I love meat and seafood. I learned it is not an all or nothing situation. I can change my eating habits and still enjoy food. I learned a new way of cooking and shopping. No longer will I throw the items in my cart without looking at the labels. I learned I am a strong independent Southern woman who is not going to be controlled by traditions. I am making my own!
Hey Ya’ll today is Monday- I started my day with a Portabello mushroom and Morning star sausage patties on a vegan bagel. It was yummy and I did not even miss the bacon. Well ok maybe just a little bit.