A vegan venture

With so much chat about health, diet, environment and the impact that meat consumption has on all of these, we’ve been having a try of a vegan lifestyle. The kids haven’t been involved so far, because to be totally honest, we have a hectic life already and I have no time or patience for convincing my kids to consume a cauliflower curry on a Wednesday night. So it’s just me and the hubster for now.

Here at Mumsomnia Towers, we are huge carnivores. I’m actually quite embarrassed about our meat consumption when I stop and think about it. Basically, a meal isn’t a meal unless an animal has lost its life. Sorry if that’s too graphic.

What I’m saying is that as a family, and probably society, we’ve become quite dependent on eating meat. Apart from breakfasts, we probably have meat, fish or dairy with every meal. If we don’t, it’s beans on toast or a heinz tomato soup. So the idea of becoming vegan was a real challenge. There are a few films and documentaries doing the rounds, which are apparently transforming people’s lives by converting them to plant based diets. Even the CEO of sausage roll kings, Greggs, has recently converted.

So how is it for an average, meat feasting, food loving couple to adopt a vegan life without feeling like they’ve lost their culinary life? Here are my thoughts.

1. It’s not that hard. With a bit of planning, label checking and a lot of creativity, we’ve managed to make some decent meals. Curries, stews, smoothies, even pancakes! There’s a lot of trial and error, but as long as you seek flavour, it’s ok. The internet is of course a great source of inspiration and the BBC Good Food site and Jamie Oliver are good options. For more indy voices, check out Wicked Kitchen.

2. It’s IMPOSSIBLE. Yes, this is a total contradiction, but certain days I’ve found myself just eating toast or rice cakes with peanut butter or sunflower spread out of laziness. It’s because soooo many products contain milk or something similar. So on the days I couldn’t be bothered to cook and just wanted something easy, it was a struggle. Likewise for anyone who travels for work, there are very few vegan options at train stations, on board or at motorway service stations, unless of course you want to fork out a small fortune, which is where the afore mentioned planning point helps. TIP – do research in advance of a trip and pack snacks.

3. Range and quality of ready meals is improving. Because of point 2, we decided to invest in a few back up options for lazy days. M&S Plant Kitchen is now my saviour. The sweet potato and cashew curry was a personal.fave, along with the sweet potato falafels. Their cauliflower popcorn bites were also tasty. The kids quite like Tesco’s vegan nuggets too!

4. Sweet potatoes are life savers. I’ve always loved sweet potato but found that I’ve been putting them in a lot of dishes. For flavour, bulking out and texture. Bulking is an issue, as just a plate of plain veg will have you (or me at least) feeling hungry within an hour. They also create a bit of variety for the plate vs greens, legumes and other carbs. Lentils are also good bulkers!

5. Cauliflower is NOT meat. Yeah it’s nice when cooked well, with lots of seasoning, but I wholeheartedly hate the term “cauliflower steak”, it’s just one big disappointment. In fact most veganised versions of meat products have totally misleading, disappointing and unnecessary names. Just call it a spiced cauliflower and my taste-buds know what to expect.

6. Meat isn’t the issue. Despite my initial worry that I’d be sniffing the kids’ chicken nuggets after 48hours, it’s not meat I’ve missed the most. A decent sized meal full of colour and flavour will satisfy me. What I’ve missed is dairy. I’ve realised I’m a cheese lover! I love it on things, in things, next to things. I’m guilty of just taking a slice of cheese whilst I’m thinking about what to eat or cook! I like cow’s milk in my tea. Coconut or soya milk just don’t cut it. Almond or oat milk will suffice, I guess. If I want a hot breakfast, eggs are my go to, so I’ve resorted to garlic mushrooms with spinach and tomatoes on toast. Nice but would be amazing in an omelette. With cheese on top.

8. My Ghanaian roots help! Whilst I’d probably think West Africans are big meat eaters, there are plenty of traditional meals that don’t require meat or animal derived products. Plantain and beans, spinach stew, garden eggs, kenke and shitto (no fish though, soz). So we’ve had a great excuse to eat more of my favourite dishes!

7. I feel ‘cleaner’. I can’t quite describe it, but my inside just feels a bit better. Now this might be a placebo effect, or because I’ve been eating less processed stuff like pasta, but I do feel quite good after just a couple of weeks. And knowing we’ve done our little bit for the planet, is a good feeling too.

All in all it’s been a good couple of weeks. I broke it at my work Xmas do, when I just couldn’t turn down a REAL stake 😊. But it’s made us both realise that we don’t need as much meat in out lives. With Veganuary starting soon, we’ll certainly be looking at how we can introduce more vegan meals into our diet and definitely get the kids involved.

Now to begin the hunt for more, child-friendly (and filling) vegan meals. If you have suggestions, hook me up!

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