Archive for the ‘The Vegan Challenge’ Category

Today marks the 30th day of my vegan adventure. I’m actually surprised at how quickly the time has flown.

I’ve enjoyed exploring the world of vegan cuisine. When you are vegan, you need to cook a lot of your own food and bring it with you during the day. At first I found this tedious and time consuming. But after the first week I found my head was buzzing with vegan recipes and questions. Does blended tofu offer the same stabilization and binding properties eggs? Can I make decent gravy with miso and vegetable stock? Going vegan has reawakened my love of cooking. I am very adventurous in the kitchen, and I feel like I have only begun to explore the possibilities in vegan cuisine.

I have also dropped 4 lbs. without any effort. I exercise the same amount, and I eat the same amount as usual. The only difference is I am eating a lot more fresh fruit and vegetables, and eating no animal proteins.

I told myself before I started to go vegan that if I really wanted to eat something, I could have it. For each unvegan moment I had, I made sure to do it deliberately understand why I was doing it.

Unvegan Moments:

-Two bites of pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving: My mother guilt tripped me into eating dessert. Then when I realized the pie was bought from Cosco and not home baked with love, I stopped and chastised my mother for her trickery. This was total mother-induced-guilt eating.

-One bite of stuffing at Thanksgiving: My mother insisted on a taste test between her meat-filled stuffing and my vegan stuffing. I honestly prefer my vegan stuffing better. Again, mother-guilt-eating.

-One bite of steak at Joe Fortes: My partner had ordered the ribeye, one of my favourites. I made a deliberate choice to do this, as a test to see what I was missing. It was good, but not as amazing as I remember meat tasting before going vegan.

-Lobster oil at Joe Fortes: They serve lobster oil with the bread at Joe Fortes. I had this because I wanted to put another notch in my gourmet belt. Inner Gourmet:1 Inner Vegan: 0

-Milk in my coffee: I ordered a coffee and they didn’t have soy milk. So I had normal milk. I admit, this one was pure laziness. I now carry Soygo creamer in my purse.

-Miscellaneous alcohol: I’ve recently become aware that certain alcohol is produced using isinglass, gelatine, egg whites etc. in the filtering process. I haven’t avoided any type of alcohol because of this yet. Instead I give myself a mental high five if I drink from an approved producer, and a swallow of guilt if I’m drinking a potentially unvegan draft.

-Miscellaneous French fries: During the first week or so of eating vegan, I found myself out at a pub where there were no vegan options. So I opted to just have fries. After a while I found out that some restaurants cook their fries in beef tallow or hogfat. EW!

So, it’s onto the second month of what I imagine will be a lifelong lifestyle. I like being vegan. I like how it makes my body feel. And I like what I am doing for the animals. Every time I pet my dog, I think of her being butchered in China for food, I remind myself that it’s no different than slaughtering a pig. And it strengthens my resolve to be a better vegan.

*Courtesy of Jenny Duffy

~The Vegan Project

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Today I went to Karmavore, the only vegan food store close to my home. This was my second week as a vegan, and I had run out of things to eat. I ate the same batch of vegan chilli for three days.

I went searching for variety, and I was not disappointed. $206.90 later, I had enough products to stock my vegan pantry.

This is what I purchased:

The items I am most excited about are:

Tofurky Roast– I can have thanksgiving with my family and not starve!

SoyGo Soy Creamer– Now I can take non-dairy creamer with me in my purse for my coffee

Daiya Vegan Cheese– Yep I bought 5 lbs of it, but I divided it into little baggies and froze most of it so it should last quite a while.

Field Roast White Truffle pate– Um, this has white truffle in it. I could eat a pile of sawdust so long as it had truffles mixed in with it.

Sheese (blue style)– I heart cheese. ‘Nuff said.

This was a large purchase, but when you consider I can freeze a lot of my goods and spread them out by serving them with fresh, cheap vegetables and fruit, this was actually a very successful shopping trip.

The salesperson was very friendly and had a lot of good recommendations for me. I felt I was in good hands, and she was even kind enough to email me a digital copy of my receipt.

I will definitely be back to Karmavore when my supplies are running low. They are moving to a brand new, larger location in New Westminster in November. Hopefully the new location won’t mean a huge increase in prices. But even if prices do go up, my health is worth investing in, isn’t it?

*Courtesy of Jenny Duffy

~The Vegan Project

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The Vegan Project’s newest contributor, Jenny Duffy, discusses the cost of being vegan…

I am Cheap

I am an accountant and I like to pinch pennies. I am the person at the table calculating the exact tip. I know precisely where every dollar of my paycheque goes. I have an excel spreadsheet which tracks my spending and calculates my excess cashflow and ending bank balance on a daily basis. In the words of Snoop Dog, I got my mind on my money and my money on my mind.

My current weekly budget for food (pet and human), toiletries, gas, and entertainment is $240. So when I began to eat vegan, I could hear my wallet shriek in terror in anticipation of the beating it was about to receive.

Fatties Eat Cheap

Our society rewards unhealthy eating with ridiculously low prices. Starving? Got some pocket shrapnel? Go to McDonald’s for their Dollar Menu. Or try Burger King’s Value Menu. Both restaurants feature bargain basement prices for the factory killing floor food.

If you are eating in a restaurant and ask for the chicken or meat to be removed from a salad or pasta, you still have to pay full price. If you go to a fast food chain, the healthier menu items are about 400% higher in price, as a salad will run you at least $4.50, while a hamburger will cost just over a dollar. Bend over healthy eaters; Ronald is gonna work you over every time you pull up to the drive thru.

Eat in, Save Your Money!

If you eat at home and make your own food, your bankroll gets somewhat of a reprieve as store-bought food made with love is always cheaper than restaurant food. Why? That Cactus Club/Earls/Moxies/Joeys is sitting on prime real estate, and those space-aged toilets and 20 foot mirrors in the nightclub-slash-bathroom don’t come cheap. More importantly, they need to pay the 15 scantily clad hostesses at the front a decent living wage.

I’ll say it again: making your own food saves money.

All Grocers Are Not The Same

Of course, it depends on where you shop. If you are a Fancy Pants McGee and you shop at Urban Fare/Choices/Generic Overpriced Yuppie Food Retailer you can bend over again, for you are getting screwed. Organic apples don’t cost $4.99 a pound. The store is located in an area with excessive rent/lease costs, so these costs are built into the prices. Yaletown apples cost more than East Vancouver apples. And chances are they were grown within the same region, possibly by the same producers.

If you opt for a small Chinese/Korean/Japanese grocery store that stocks local organic produce grown in the Fraser Valley, or you shop in Superstore’s Organic Section, then you can save a lot of money. Local organic produce is a godsend that we as Vancouverites are uniquely blessed with.

In between these two extremes lie a wide range of shops that cater to vegetarians, vegans, organics (people who eat only organic. There was no term for this so I coined one. Yep, I’m that guy.) and other counter culture food-hipsters.

In the Boardroom

Ethical consumers represent a relatively untapped niche to corporate douche bags everywhere.  The vegan food market is relatively new when compared to the mature processed non-vegan food industry. If vegan eating follows the same arc as organic eating, there is a lot of money to be made by producing vegan food.

Vegans are a captive market because we have to seek out places that stock specialty items like tempeh or Daiya cheddar replacement. Additionally, we are willing to pay a higher price for these products because there aren’t many alternatives. There is no No-Name vegan beer sausage. If we find a producer that makes a product we like, we generally stick with it because there isn’t much competition.

I have a dream

I have a dream.  I dream of a time when vegan and vegetarian foods are popular enough that they are at the same price point as crap food. $0.99 for a bag of gourmet organic vegan popcorn? I hope I live to see the day.

Until that day comes, I’ve got to do some leg work and find places close to home that stock vegan products…

*Courtesy of Jenny Duffy

~The Vegan Project

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It was my 29th birthday dinner, and my good friend Jessica (vegan) was in attendance. I jokingly told her that since she was a vegan, I assumed all she could have for dinner was pencil shavings and a glass of tepid water. Insensitive? Yes. Funny?  Somewhat. Now it seems, the joke is on me.

After stumbling upon the PETA website last August, I made the decision to become a more ethical consumer. I was horrified by the cruelty of factory farming, and wanted to make an impact. I told my brother of my decision, and he shared a terrible story of how the farm hands at a particular poultry plant stick their fingers inside the birds’ vaginas as they go up the kill chute.  No, I decided, I definitely didn’t want to eat anything that had been finger banged before it ended up on my plate. And if you think I am being gross, try watching Meet Your Meat. That’s really gross.

This decision presented a bit of a challenge for me for several reasons. Number one, I am a gourmet enthusiast. I delight in trying new foods. Obscure goats milk cheese that’s only produced 3 months of the year in Spain? I want it. A poached egg infused with truffle oil? Sign me up. I once tracked down a famous fois gras eatery in Montreal simply because I had heard about their coveted Duck In A Can.

The other concerns I had were how my lifestyle choice would impact my friends and family. In my family, food is the focus of family gatherings. We are all very good cooks, and we like to cook and boast of our culinary prowess. Would I become stigmatized? Would I be gnawing judgmentally on a carrot at thanksgiving dinner, while my family feasted on turkey and urged me to give up my hippie-like notions of saving the world one chicken at a time?

In the end, my instincts won me over. I knew in my heart I didn’t want to support the factory farming industry. I also knew that my body was telling me it was time for a change. For the last year or so, I had been feeling drained, heavy, and lethargic. I didn’t have the energy I used to. My skin had lost its glow, and even after a full night of sleep I didn’t feel refreshed. I felt old, thick and loaded with toxins.

So, let’s fast forward to the present. I have spent the last month transitioning out of eating meat into lacto-ovo-pescatarianism. I’ve been keeping eggs, dairy and seafood in my diet, as I don’t believe in making drastic lifestyle changes. I also don’t want this transition to be a negative experience, or else I know I will not be able to sustain it in the long run.

The next step for me is to become promiscuous with the habits of my vegan friends. I will be opening my life to the benefits of a vegan lifestyle and documenting my foils along the way.  I’m also vowing to see this phase of my life as an exploration of what I can gain from eating as a vegan, instead of what I’m losing by not eating animal products.

Who is Jenny Duffy?  Click here to find out!

~The Vegan Project

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Cate and her husband, Steve. Excellent style.

Day 7 – Monday

Well I made it through my first full week as a Vegan (well I tried).  Monday morning, after a whirlwind weekend of parties and tempting food, I decided to stick with it for my final “blog” day.  My usual smoothie got me through the morning till work.  Once there, some green tea and some trail mix with fresh blueberries added for snacks.  I loaded a bag full of food with me this morning and for lunch prepared an organic wrap with Veganaise, tofurkey slices, tomato, hummus, spinach & cucumber.  Once I got home, I was craving some pasta, so I whipped up some oranic rotini with my basil pesto sauce (yummy) and threw in some sweet & spicy tofu – delish!!

After one week of no dairy and no meat (other than the salmon on Friday night) I’m feeling pretty good.  I’m definitely going to continue to eat Vegan for as long as I can. I still haven’t had a chance to have a meal at “Fine Foods” in Burlington and there are still lots of recipes I didn’t get to yet, so I’d like to give them a try.  I think just cutting out dairy has been good for me, for sure.  I must be feeling a bit more energetic too, because I actually did a couple of intense workouts this week along with long walks.  It’s definitely a way of life and it has made me so much more aware of what I’m eating and that can only be a good thing.

I want to thank Bridget and The Vegan Project for giving me this challenge, I’ve had a blast, learned a lot about Vegans and hopefully have been able to inspire others to give this a try.  Not only for your own health, but for the health of our planet and all the animals that we share it with.  And possibly to inspire someone to open up more Vegan friendly restaurants in Ontario!


~Cate Baldwin

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Day 5 – Saturday

Cate's boat.

Well the start of a very challenging weekend – two party events to attend to this weekend, and my Vegan cloak is ready! So, Saturday morning was great, had my organic granola, almond milk & blueberries – what a treat!  I had stayed the night at my sister-in-laws so I had packed my own breakfast.  Riley the dog & I sarted to head home about 10 mins into the trip I realized I had left all of my food at her apartment. I debated for about 5 seconds whether to leave it there or not and decided I couldn’t go home without my Agave nectar, back I went.

By the time I got home it was nearing lunch and I knew I’d be driving again for a while. So, I whipped up the leftover lentils, brown rice and added some organic salsa sauce and spinach.  It hit the spot very nicely.  Once I was packed up with my cold bag full of vegan foods, Riley & I were ready to hit the road again to the weekend destination of Port Dalhousie, where my husband had sailed our boat there the night before and was waiting for me to arrive with the car.  As he said, he brought the hotel, I brought the wheels and Riley, course.

Our first event of the weekend was somewhat of a old friends “reunion” in St. David’s which is very near beautiful Niagara-on-the-Lake.  I had packed some Tofurkey kelbassa dogs, some cappucino pudding and left the rest to fate. Well, the girls that were at the party are “facebook” friends as well, and they both were aware that I have been blogging this challenge. One of our friends – Pam visiting Niagara from Seattle, told me right away that she has been eating Vegan for 4 months!! Well, this just kicked off an evening of exchanging ideas, thoughts & Vegan talk. Our gracious host, Diane, was kind enough to have veggie burgers and a whoe array of veggies available for us all. Kenny BBQ’d the bugers and the Tofurkey dogs and Pam & I were able to enjoy the whole meal just as much as everyone else did. All of the other guests enjoyed their chicken. However, I have to say that Pam & I did not partake in the cheesecake for dessert.  My will power was outstanding!!

All I can add is that I’m very glad that wine is not off the Vegan list, as I thouroughly enjoyed several variations this night. 🙂

Day 6 – Sunday

The challenge is coming to an end very soon and I’m thinking that I would like to continue eating Vegan for at least another week or two to see if I notice any changes in how I feel, energy level, ect.  It has definitely had an impact on the way I think about food and the way I look at certain foods.  To be quite honest the thought of eating a big, juicy steak right now is not appealing at all.  When anyone asks why I’m doing this I tell them that I’d like to try to do my part in not eating anything that had parents or a face for a while.  When you think of it that way, eating Vegan is not so hard to understand.

Well, we managed to get back to the boat last night and when we got up this morning I had brought with me my granola, almond milk & blueberries.  I enjoyed it so much on Saturday, I decided to have it again this morning.  Today we were getting ready to celebrate my Dad’s 80th birthday in St. Catharines.  Pretty much the whole family was there (except for my kids and my grandaughter, all in B.C.!!) and it turned out to be a terrific, sunny day.  It was a pot-luck party, so we had a great variety of food.  My Tofurkey dogs were all gone, so I ended up having a bean salad, a large amount of mixed salad, rice crackers, hummus with some raw veggies and lots of fruit.  Now, I have to say that when my sister brought out the most beautiful cake for my Dad, I had already made up my mind.  Honestly, is there anyone who could forgoe having a piece of their Dad’s 80th birthday cake??? Honestly now…  So, I did have a very small slice (ask anyone) but it did definitely consist of some dairy products as there was custard filling involved.  Okay, it was good and now I’m done.

Happy 80th to Cate's Dad!

Once we all said our goodbye’s it was back to the marina to get my husband sailing off into the sunset – literally – while I took the wheels and Riley the dog home.  I was feeling extremely hungry all the way home and when I got here I raced to the fridge for my organic bread and made myself a totally Vegan peanut butter and jam sandwich.  Yup, I did and it was great.  I’m now so darn exhausted and not looking forward to getting up for work tomorrow, so I’m calling it a night.  I’ll deal with making whatever I need to take to work tomorrow in the morning.

One more day to blog my challenge – it’s been quite a week!!


~Cate Baldwin

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Cate on her sailboat. What a babe!

Hello! Well, today I did much better – to start out.  I had a great shake again for breaky and made sure I packed enough food to get me through the day at work.  I work at a great place that has a terrific health & wellness ethic.  They have a workout room in the basement and every morning there is a fresh vat of brewed green tea ready.  How great is that?? So, after enjoying some green tea with my Agave nectar I felt ready.

I told you yesterday that I picked up some non-dairy cappucino pudding – well, let me tell you how absoulutely fabulous they are!!! I will continue to buy these on a regular basis – and – they are only 70 cal. each!! Win, win.  Snack time was delightful.

Lunch was leftover lentils with hummus, spinach & some tomatoes all wrapped up in a tortilla wrap.  Perfect. Lots of water, an apple and another cup of green tea got me through the afternoon very well.

So, here’s where I digress a little.  I was invited to dinner at my sister-in-law’s home and she was cooking.  I hadn’t had time to tell her about the challenge, but I thought I’d just see what was in store.  Well, she had made a great potato salad, with non-dairy mayo!! A fabulous salad, and lucky for me I had taken my Agave nectar so I made us both some yummy dressing.  She had also cooked some Salmon. Oops.  Well, I tried, but I had to partake in the whole meal.  And it was really great. A bit of a set back for my so-far, pretty darn good week.  I’m thinking though that Salmon is about the least worst item I could have had.  A couple of glasses of my Vegan wine (kidding) was also top notch.

Then for a walk down by the pier, looking at all of the people sitting on the patios slurping their ice creams and desserts.  It was a bit difficult and I was really feeling weak about the ice cream, or even frozen yogurt – just a cupful – please!!!!.  I know, I know there are Vegan replacements, but not easily accesible at any restaurants.  ALERT – Vegan friendly dessert shops needed desperately in Ontario!!!

Well, tomorrow should be interesting.  Having a BBQ with friends (I’m taking my own) and not sure what else will be offered…


~Cate Baldwin

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Okay, day 3 must be when the body is saying, what the heck are you doing to me??  I have to say that this afternoon was not a really great time for me. I think my biggest problem was that I didn’t take enough food to work today.  I did the smoothie for breakfast again and had a cup of coffee with my almond milk in it as well.  For lunch today I had a tortilla wrap with hummus, avocado, tomatoes, cucumbers & spinach.  It was really yummy, but I should have made two.  I also had a can of “Amy’s” Butternut Squash soup – really great!  I also brought an apple and a kiwi.  But, for some reason, by about 4:30 my head was sore and I was feeling pretty light headed.  I figured I needed to up my blood sugar, so I raided the work kitchen and found a hamburger bun, which I toasted & added some peanut butter to it.  I know, the hamburger bun was bad, but it did get me home safely.

Tonight for dinner I tried cooking some green lentils with lemon zest, dijon mustard, thyme & cumin.  I also had some brown rice cooked in vegetable broth and for my “greens” (other than the lentils) I sauteed some rainbow chard in the vegan butter with salt & pepper.  It was all very tasty and definitely filling.  I stopped at the local “Fortino’s” grocery store and found some vegan Cappucino pudding 🙂  I’m looking forward to taking that as one of my snacks tomorrow! I was pretty impressed with the selection of vegan, organic and gluten-free items that they carry at the store.  Not having really taken notice of the variety before, it was great to see that I will be able to find healthy choices, which I would like to stick with, and maybe one day be able to add my own vegan recipes to this site!

I’m definitely going to be more prepared for tomorrow at work, no more cravings!! I’m sure this is all pretty normal though as your body adjusts to what it is doing without.  Other than that incident this afternoon, I was really pleased with my meal preparations.  It’s great to have a “plan” to work from.

Talk to you tomorrow!

~Cate Baldwin

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Cate during her visit to beautiful BC.

Day 2 of veganism! Well, doing this challenge has really “challenged” me to stop and think about all of the foods that we consume regularly. It is virtually impossible to find good, healthy, unpreserved, chemical-free everyday food. I usually have always read the labels, but now I’m disecting them! I’m feeling really good about all of the organic, natural foods that I’ve been eating so far and I’m thinking this may be a whole new way of life for me, especially looking at all of the yummy vegan/vegitarian recipes out there.

So, today I enjoyed a wonderful almond milk, mixed-berry & banana smoothie with Vital Greens & flax oil for breakfast. I usually have a protien shake in the mornings, but this time, I eliminated the whey protien powder and it was still really tasty.  I must say that I am taking supplements to make sure nothing is missed.  After I made my sandwhich for lunch, packed it up and put it in the fridge at work, I couldn’t wait to eat it!  It was roasted tofurkey on my “Stonemill Bakehouse” sprouted grains bread with veganaise, spinach, avocado, tomatoes & salt /pepper.  It was really great and very filling.  Snacks consisted of almonds as well as celery with peanut butter – yum.

Dinner was a real treat – my friend came over and she brought with her a platter of fresh fruit, which was her “vegan dessert” I had asked for – perfect.  She also surprised me with a bag of HUGE zuchinni’s, small cucumbers & a few small green peppers – all grown in her own garden and she assured me there were no pesticides used and even the earth was from an organic farm! She gets many gold stars for this, God bless her.  We enjoyed our Tofurkey keilbasa dogs, sans buns (watching our weight) and because silly me forgot to buy potatoes, we had brown rice & a great salad.  She really enjoyed the whole thing and was saying how her husband is dying to go Vegan, so he may be the next Ontarian challenge!!  Oh, I purchased some Agave Nectar from the “Vitamin Store” today & used it in place of honey to make my salad dressing (which I usually put honey in) and now I’m hooked on that stuff.  I even used some of it in my tea tonight.

I have also been thinking about how much the world has changed with all of our fast food and “instant gratification” everything. Here in Ontario, we all seem to be doing 100 miles per hour (161 km/hr) and in order to accommodate that we have forgotten the simple things, like growing our own veggies and enjoying a home made meal. Looking at all of the foods I’m eating this week, it reminds me of when I was a kid and these were pretty much all of the items we had to eat, well maybe not the tofu, but certainly none of the pre-packaged, zap-it-in-the-microwave crap that we all eat now. It just makes sense to slow things down and get back to the way it should be.  You folks out in beautiful B.C. seem to have grasped this long ago, or maybe you just never sped up to this “mid-coast” speed – nor should you.

Day 3 – here I come!

~Cate Baldwin

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Well, one day down and I think I did pretty good, considering I didn’t have my usual coffee this morning. I am suffering somewhat of a caffeine withdrawal headache. I just can’t bring myself to have black coffee and there was no soy milk at work… ah well.  Blueberry tea was very good though, albiet with no honey.

So, I went to the local health food/grocery store, Goodness Me and stocked up on my “supplies” for the week.  My husband followed me around the store and looked at the prices of everything and immediately decided that we should go into the Health Food Store business.  So, having said that, as most folks know, it’s not cheap to eat healthy.  I’m pretty sure there are things that I could probably get at the local grocery store as well, and I’m going to look into that tomorrow.

I enjoyed my big salad at lunch with balsamic dressing and ate good old almonds, cranberries and pine nuts for snacks.  My dinner tonight was the pesto linguine with tofu.  It didn’t look so good, the wholewheat pasta didn’t cook quite the same as the regular starch & preservative infused pasta does. But, the tofu was seasoned “sweet & spicy” and boy, was it good!  I’ve never had tofu before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The meal was great, and very filling.  I finished the day off with a long walk with my dog and a bottle of vitamin water (I checked the labels, they were okay).

I’m looking forward to tomorrow and my tofurkey kielbasa dogs and potatoe salad! My friend is joining me for dinner tomorrow night and I told her that her mission was to find a “vegan dessert” to bring.  She’s terrified and I’ll keep you posted on how she does.

~Cate Baldwin

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