Tomorrow, as you nurse a sugar hangover, the rest of the world will be celebrating World Vegan Day. In honor of this important event, I thought it apropo to talk to jellyphish, the Group Owner of CafeMom's very own Vegetarian and Vegan Moms, to learn a little more about veganism. What are the biggest misconceptions of being vegan? How hard is it to feed your kids a vegan diet? Are there any healthy benefits? And, most important, what the heck do vegans eat?
Being vegan means avoiding consumption of all animal products (including meat, dairy, eggs, etc.), as well as avoiding wool, leather, and products that have been tested on animals. Many people like jellyphish become vegan for health reasons but then come to appreciate the positive environmental impact this type of lifestyle has on the planet as well. She and her husband have been vegan for four years. They are raising their 15-month-old daughter to be vegan as well.
Is it hard being vegan?
In the beginning it can be frustrating. It's hard to read all the labels and find out what is and what isn't vegan. But after a few weeks it becomes second nature and you don't even realize it.
How difficult is it to keep your daughter on a vegan diet?
I just give her everything that we eat. The most challenging thing is going to birthday parties and not having the desserts. We've been making vegan desserts, and we'll bring those with us.
Are you worried that she is getting enough nutrients?
It's a big misconception that vegan diets lack nutrition. It's really important to know that there isn't any kind of nutrients found in meat and dairy that can't be found in plants. Protein can be found in beans, legumes, grains, and mushrooms, so I make sure she gets plenty of those. For calcium, we give her fortified soy milk and leafy greens; for iron, we mix black sap molasses into milk or oatmeal. We also make sure she eats nutritional yeast [mixed into food], which is really good for vitamin B12.
Have you noticed a difference ever since you became a vegan?
We feel different. I have more energy and more mental clarity. My husband used to get migraines two to three times a week, and now he doesn't get them.
What helpful resources are out there for people who are considering being vegan?
Can you give us a sample menu (with recipes!) for what a vegan might eat in one day?
(thekatsmeeeow also contributed to the menu.)
Breakfast: Vegan Coconut Pancakes With Pineapple Sauce from Vegan with a Vengeance
1 1/4 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/3 cup water
1 - 1 1/4 cups non dairy milk (I use vanilla soymilk)
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla or coconut extract
2 Tbsp veg oil
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
Sift together the first four ingredients. Add the water, milk, maple syrup, extract, and veg oil. Fold in the coconut. Cook in a hot pan until bubbles appear on the top. Flip and cook for a few more minutes. Makes six 6 -7" pancakes.
For Pineapple Sauce:
1 (20 oz ) can of pineapple chunks in juice
2 Tbsp arrowroot powder
3 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
In a small sauce pan off the heat, stir arrowroot into the pineapple until it is all dissolved. Add the sugar. Cook over medium heat until the sauce thickens and the sugar is dissolved - about 7 minutes. Take off the heat and stir in vanilla.
Lunch: Tempeh Salad
1 package of tempeh
some Veganaise (maybe about 2 C)
1 stalk of celery, chopped
1 green onion, chopped
a handful of walnuts, chopped
1 pickle, chopped
some herbs you like (I used black pepper and oregano)
Steam tempeh for about 10 minutes or so. Mix all other ingredients in a bowl. Drain and crumble tempeh and add to the bowl. Mix. Chill. Yum. This is great with crackers, veggies, pitas, as a sandwich or with a spoon.
Dinner: Portobello Fajitas
1 orange bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 red onion
2 portobello mushrooms
2 large tomatoes
1 jalapeno (optional)
vegan sour cream
fresh chopped cilantro
Clean and slice up the mushrooms into nice thick slices. Place in a zip lock bag. Pour in a little olive oil ( 1-2 TBLS) squeeze in the juice of 1 lemon, and pour in about 1/4 cup of tequila. Squeeze out the air and seal up the bag. Let marinade on the counter while you work on the rest.
Slice up the peppers and onion into strips. Slice and seed the tomatoes. De-seed and dice the jalapeno fine.
Heat a little olive oil in a LARGE skillet, just enough to coat the bottom of the pan lightly. When hot (just to where water will dance in the pan) add the mushrooms and the onions. Cook, covered but stirring often, over medium-high heat for a couple minutes. Add the bell peppers and jalapeno. When the bell peppers are almost done (i like mine a little crunchy still) add the tomato slices. Sprinkle the whole mess with salt, cumin and chili powder to taste and pour in a little more tequila. Stir up and let finish cooking. Serve with warm tortillas, homemade guac, vegan sour cream and lemon wedges to squeeze over them. Feeds 4 HUNGRY people.