It's January and I'm always keen for a new food challenge, so it just seemed the obvious decision to try out Veganuary.
If you follow my blog you'll know that I'm already dairy & gluten free, so how hard can it be to give up meat? My 12 year old daughter who although has decided now not to be vegan, was the most fastidious vegan convert literally overnight for over six months, so I have a hard act to follow. She'd study every food label for traces of non-vegan foods, tut tut me at the suggestion of eating honey and took on board all the new pulses, vegetables and vegan supplements I put in her direction.
I want to say I'm going to be as dedicated, but over Christmas I did indulge in small amounts of dairy and gluten. Surrounded by copious quantities of lovely cheeses the desire to resist was too great. Topped off by my own decision to make baked camembert and homemade dough balls as a starter (well we did have guests), it was a fait accompli.
Yes it did taste lovely and yes I did over indulge, but honestly I also really regretted it as I fell into a post dairy/gluten slumber that I don't want to repeat in a while. So Veganuary marks a clean slate that I'm happy to embrace.
I have to admit this was a last minute decision so day one went off with a rough start with it also being New Years Day and not having gone food shopping with a vegan menu in mind and the shops shut for the day, meant I was ill prepared. So whilst my guests ate lamb with dauphinoise potatoes, broccoli and green beans, my daughter (who still doesn' eat red meat), ate pan-fried halloumi; I ate a plain gratin potato version with the vegetables. Not the greatest New Years day meal.
So lesson one, as I do know only too well is that the key to being vegan or really eating healthily generally is to plan. Planning means that you always have food in the house that you can eat, so you don't eat rubbish instead or go hungry.
Collecting recipe books is becoming one of my guilty pleasures, but if you don't want to buy them, then the internet is a brilliant source of endless recipes to inspire you. Go through and select recipes for the week ahead, not forgetting every meal including breakfast and snacks. Most dinner dishes will lend themselves to be leftovers you can have for lunch the next day or can be frozen for another day, so it's worth making big batches to save time. Being caught out not having food you can eat for lunch at work or travelling can be tricky, but if there's always something in the freezer than you should be okay.
So once you've chosen your recipes and written a shopping list, you'll probably notice that many dishes have a lot of the same core ingredients. Here's a list I've compiled of my favourites which I now try to have a regular supply of, then I know I can always make something which is vegan, healthy and tasty. Hopefully you'll find it useful too:
Chickpeas (tinned or dried, but dried take longer as they need soaking overnight)
Apple cider vinegar
Oat or nut milk
Spices: Cinnamon, ginger (fresh preferably), chilli flakes, coriander, cumin, turmeric.
Fresh chilli (red)
Popcorn (that you make yourself not the shop bought kind)
As many vegetables as possible! Keep them seasonal for freshness, nutritional value & cost. In season now are:
Frozen peas and berries which were picked when in season, still retain their nutritional value.
I also like to keep a few white potatoes, plenty of onions (red & white) and celery in stock so I can make soups. I live off soups through the winter to provide warmth and nutrition and they're such a great easy vegan dish to make. Peppers and cucumber are also useful to have to hand.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but a great starting point, which you can add onto. Once you've done the basic planning preparation you'll feel more positive and realise it might not be as hard as you think?
I'm hoping by the end of the month I'll feel healthier but primarily that it will have a positive impact on my eating habits. Follow my blog to see how I get on, for vegan recipes and tips.