Thursday, August 9, 2018

Vegan Favorites: Year One

You know how earlier this week I bummed everybody out with my musings on veganism? Today I'm going to make up for it with lots and lots of lists. Are you ready? Good.

I've spent the last year fumbling around trying to get my vegan feet under me. I think I'm finally hitting my stride, so I wanted to talk about the foods I love, the foods I miss, and the products I'm using. That way when you go vegan, maybe you'll be less hangry than I was. And also, you'll smell nice.

The Food!

My transition foods

When I went vegan, I had no idea what to eat. My first (intentionally) vegan meal was unseasoned vegetables and rice and some refried black beans out of a can. It was not a happy time. I have since learned my lesson and now eat food that tastes good (imagine that), but there were some foods that really helped me get through the first months of not knowing what to eat.
  • Refrigerator bagels
  • Tofutti cream cheese
  • Soy Sauce flavored Top Ramen (read your labels!)
  • Clif bars
  • PB&J with potato chips
  • Tater tots 
  • Chips and salsa and Thug Kitchen's bean dip
Seriously, for anybody out there who's thinking about going vegan, this is my one piece of advice: figure out your transition foods. Know what you're going to eat when you have nothing to eat. Know what to do when you've overslept and have eighteen minutes to get to work. Know your fallbacks for when you're PMSing and really really just want a peppermint patty. If you can find ways to eat vegan without thinking about it, you've won half the battle.


My favorite meals

Once I realized that I needed to eat something other than Top Ramen, I ventured into actual food. Albeit, still very pasta-based food, but you know what, I like pasta, so deal with it. All those people who tell you pasta is bad for you are just trying to bring you down. Pasta is yummy and it has protein and fiber and you can reheat it like a champ, so really, there's no down side. None. Shut up.

Here are my favorite meals at this exact moment in time:
  • Tempeh bacon BLTs (let it marinate, don't just dump it in a pan)
  • Veggie pasta with Prego's red pepper pasta sauce and Aldi vegan meatballs
  • Homemade pea pesto
  • Tacos, made with black beans, Gardein crumbles, lotsa sauce, and either guac or Tofutti sour cream
  • Red pepper pasta, made with soy milk for extra protein
Believe it or not, I actually eat more diverse foods now than I did when I was just vegetarian. Granted, I can't think of any of them in this particular moment, but I swear, I'm much more open to trying new things these days. For the most part, if it's vegan, I'll eat it. Unless it's mushrooms, and then it's straight back to the Top Ramen for me.

 Favorite food brands/products

  • Tofutti's cream cheese and sour cream
  • Chao's Tomato Cayenne cheese slices
  • Lightlife hot dogs and tempeh
  • Aldi's classic vegan meatballs
  • Trader Joe's Thai Sweet Chili burgers
  • Gardein beefless ground 
In your searches for vegan cheese, please, for the love of cows, skip the Daiya. It's awful. Really. I just found a bag of unopened Daiya cheddar shreds in my fridge that expired in December. That's how much I didn't want to eat it. And that's really saying something, seeing as how vegan cheese costs about $89/pound.

The Face! (and hands and hair and body)

After transition foods, one of the biggest challenges for me going vegan was changing all of my personal care items. This has also been my biggest expense, because I used to buy products based on the cheapest version of what worked, but now, every product has to check the cruelty free/vegan box, and sometimes that means compromising features or cheapness. Right now, this is what I'm using, but I'm open to suggestions:
  • Lush shampoo bars. Jumping Juniper is my favorite, but they have lots of different options for different hair needs.
  • Not Your Mother's Beach Babe conditioner
  • Not Your Mother's In a Heartbeat blowdry spray
  • Kiss My Face Cool Mint shave cream
  • Kiss My Face olive oil soap (I don't love this. I'm going to try something else next time.)
  • Alba Botanica sea mineral face cleansing gel
  • Alba Botanica Very Emollient sunscreen
  • ELF mascara (it's $3, people!)
  • Everyone hand soap (also looking for an alternative to this one)
  • Hurraw lip balm
Full disclosure: I haven't officially switched out my deodorant, toothpaste, or laundry detergent yet. I tried the Kiss My Face Active Life deodorant, but it only worked if I was cold and not moving. As for toothpaste, I was too broke to buy vegan toothpaste, so I tried making my own coconut oil/baking soda stuff and that was absolutely disgusting, so I'm back to Colgate. With laundry detergent...I'm just holding out. I finally found an affordable, unscented liquid detergent that I love, and I don't want to ditch that to spend another three years looking for something else. Don't hate me too much.

The People!

In case you hadn't caught on from my previous post, I'm not exactly rich in vegan friends. To put it in perspective for you, my most supportive friends invited me to a Facebook event today and made sure to indicate that there would be "vegan crap for Katie" on the menu. Sweet and all, but not exactly Team Nooch, if you know what I mean. Given my lack of neighborhood vegans, I have turned to the Internet, as one does when one needs a thing.

My favorite vegan YouTubers are:
  • The Viet Vegan. She's awesome. Hands down. I want her to be my best friend. Also, she has a blog. Because she's that rad.
  • More Salt Please. If you love eyebrows, you'll love her. But seriously. She's a lot of fun, and a great cook. From what I can tell. She hasn't invited me over yet.
  • Cheap Lazy Vegan. I may or may not have been watching her videos the night I went vegan. I thought she was adorable. She still is. She runs her own vegan cafe!
  • No Egg Craig. Craig is fine. Craig's mom is hilarious. Mostly, I enjoy watching these videos because they're kind of like having a virtual vegan family to hang out with for twenty minutes. It's pretty cool. Also, they love hummus, so obviously they know what's up.
Finally, it wouldn't be right to talk about vegan favorites without mentioning Minimalist Baker. She is the queen of all vegans who cook. And bake. And eat. I don't know what the vegans of the world did to deserve her, but she's the best thing ever. Eat all her food.

Now that I've shared my favorites, I want to see your favorites below! Did any of you have a transition food that helped you get through your early veganhood? Am I missing an awesome recipe I should know about? Fill me in!

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