give chickpeas a chance

Well, folks, I did it. I survived Dry January. I survived Veganuary. I survived the combination Dry Veganuary! I know a lot of folks pooh-pooh these sorts of month-long self-imposed challenges as examples of toxic diet culture, but the reality for me is the period of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas saw me bending my usual rules and limitations around food and drinking more than I’d like. And I didn’t feel great about it. I was starting to feel - once again - like I wasn’t in control of my relationship with food, and using food and alcohol as a vice or crutch or reward more often than I’d like. The New Year presents a fresh start, a departure point for hitting the reset button and maybe implementing some longer term positive changes along the way. As I’ve written about before, I’ve been “mostly vegan” since May 2020, when we went totally vegan for one week. I’ve had fish a couple of times since and continued to eat eggs and a little bit of cheese, plus some non-vegan candy with popcorn during Saturday movie nights. But about 90% of the time (that is a totally unscientific estimate) my diet is 100% plant-based. In January 2022, other than one sip of a smoothie my daughter made that included cow’s milk yogurt (she assumed all the yogurt in the fridge was non-dairy), I ingested neither alcohol nor animal products.

And it really wasn’t that hard. When you’re already “mostly vegan,” going totally vegan for one month mostly entails cutting out foods you shouldn’t be eating too much of anyway, like cheese and candy. The dry part was even easier. I listened to this NPR Life Kit episode for some tips (the social part is still, nearly two years into this pandemic, kind of moot).

We had some seltzer leftover from our holiday delivery driver snack basket and I’m not usually a fan of seltzer, but it was nice to have something other than water to accompany dinner every now and then. I really only missed that glass of red wine with pizza toward the end of the month, but what I didn’t miss was the inevitable sleepiness that would no doubt follow for the rest of the evening but not necessarily translate into an early bedtime or a good night of sleep. Not drinking, on the other hand, did not alleviate the increased joint aches and pains I’ve been experiencing on the weekends. Maybe I need to cut it out of my diet for more than a month? Maybe two extra hours in bed and skipping my weekday morning workouts isn’t great for the mild arthritis in my low back and knee?

So other than the seltzer sub, what did I eat? Probably more than I should have! I definitely fell into the trap of “if it doesn’t break the rules, it’s OK to eat!” more than once. Oreos are vegan and alcohol-free but maybe not a great afternoon snack? With that, here are some highlights of the month:

My favorite weekday lunch is a leftover burrito bowl. Rice, beans, “meat”, some vegan cheese and sour cream, topped with avocado and a handful of corn chips. All vegan.

We get donuts for a weekend breakfast once a month. I love Dick’s Donuts for classic and Donut Savant for fancy but neither are vegan. This is where Vegan Donut Gelato comes in. They’re a bit of a drive compared to our usual non-vegan spots, but so worth the extra time it takes to fetch these.

Veganize it! You don’t need to follow only vegan/plant-based recipes (although there are a ton of really good vegan cookbooks and Instagram accounts one can follow for recipes and ideas). Many recipes are really easy to makeover fully plant-based, like these peanut butter white miso cookies from New York Times Cooking. I used Miyoko’s vegan butter (the best!) and a flax egg and they turned out perfectly.

There are some really good non-dairy ice creams on the market now, so if you’re into that sort of thing and you’re nervous about cutting out dairy, don’t be! This is a newer flavor at Trader Joe’s, but my favorite is any and all Ben & Jerry’s plant-based flavors. The 8yo, on the eve of her 9th birthday, is requesting ice cream sundaes for her birthday dessert and approved the B&J’s vegan flavors I purchased. They're that good.

So, yeah, if there’s a lesson to be learned here, it's don’t be chicken! Be adventurous, try new things. Like plant-based “chicken”. If you haven’t already, but you’re plant-based-meat-curious, you simply must stop by the Don’t Be Chick’n food truck. The family meal is a pretty good deal but the chicken strips are my favorite.

Try the vegan portion of the menus at places you already frequent. If you're into plant-based options, let the world know it! I really think as demand for vegan options increases, so will supply, and honestly that’s when cooks get hella creative. Like Senor Sisig’s extensive vegano menu. Hello plant-based crunch-wrap supreme with vegan queso dipping sauce!

One of the non-vegan staples in my otherwise “mostly vegan” diet was scrambled eggs with cheese. It took a minute to get used to it, but I’m totally content with a JUST Egg patty (you can buy these in bulk at Costco and pop one in the toaster to warm it up!) and a slice of Daiya cheese melted on top. I don’t plan to ever go back to real eggs. The vegan muffin from Arizmendi, delicious as it is, is getting a little boring, though, so whether or not I sneak in the occasional non-vegan scone from time to time remains to be seen (and in case you’re wondering, I long ago switched to Silk half & half in my coffee).

The other weekly staple is non-vegan candy with popcorn on movie nights. This one was tough, not gonna lie, partly because we had so much candy and chocolate leftover from the holidays going into January. We still have peanut M&Ms and an entire box of See’s chocolates that I will, now that January is over, have to polish off. But after that, I’ll try to stick with the vegan alternatives I discovered over the course of the month. Some of them are not cheap (but the Unreal peanut gems - not pictured above - are so good!), but, y’know, I probably shouldn’t be eating too many of them anyway.

So, clearly, lots of hits here, and it wasn't that hard. Any misses, you might ask? In two words: vegan bacon. This non-vegan food is best forgotten altogether!