I switched to a plant-based, or vegan, diet at the start of 2016. And, since my girlfriend Joanne - a.k.a The Korean Vegan (TKV) - pretty much went vegan at the same time, I figured it would be cool to invite her to join me on this blog post. First, a little background:
What does it mean to be vegan
Speaking strictly about diet, being vegan means that we don't eat anything that comes from an animal: no meat, fish, milk, or cheese.
Why we went vegan
I went vegan after a lot of reading, listening, and research on the benefits of a plant-based diet. Joanne basically copied me :-)
She is a superhero, a Korean Wonder Woman with a crazy cool power to cook up goodness that is - you guessed it - 100% vegan. By day she is J. Lee, attorney; but, by night she dons her KV cape and veganizes the bejesus out of things.
TKV: Breakfast is undoubtedly my most favorite meal of the day—something which wasn’t always true for me. I used to be one of those persons who regularly (uh…think, everyday) skipped breakfast and hoarded all my calories for the big show (i.e., dinner). But nothing quite hits the spot like a bit of toast, fruit, and coffee in the morning, when your stomach is ready to break that fast.
That said, for birthdays or on those mornings I’m feeling particularly inspired, I like to mix it up. If you thought breakfast pastries were a no-go for vegans, think again. My blueberry muffins are the best I’ve ever eaten—period. I perfected this recipe over several attempts after being disappointed with the vegan options at the local grocery store. Want something a bit more upscale? Pumpkin spice scones are a perfect pair with my soy or almond latte while everyone else obsesses over Starbucks's pumpkin spice latte (sadly, not vegan). Obviously, Anthony is a fitness freak, so I also try to sneak in bits of protein and iron here and there, which is how I came up with my Iron Waffles.
But, the crown jewel of all breakfasts is indisputably pancakes. Thick, fluffy, and about the size of my hand, I like to stack them up as high as they’ll go before dressing them with fresh berries, sliced bananas, and maple syrup. A veritable tower of plant-powered yumminess.
"Marathon Morning" qualifies as a holiday in our family, and thus invites a special breakfast.
Here we find TKV's delicious pancakes as the 2016 Men's Olympic Marathon unfolds.
Lunchish / Snacks
Depending on the day, and my work and workout schedule, I may or may not sit down to a committed lunch. If I prepare something on my own, it's almost always pasta, and it usually means I'm at home and that I put in a late morning or early afternoon run or workout. Jovial Brown Rice Spaghetti is my pasta of choice, complemented by the simplest of sauces, usually made from Mutti tomatoes. Nothing at all fancy here, I just add a little olive oil, Pink Himalayan Salt, and fresh basil if we have it. It's delicious, nutritious, and fairly quick.
Another lunchtime item that I often make is a green smoothie, usually consisting of spinach, kale, and other dark leafy greens; bananas, blueberries, almond milk, spirulina, and a plant based protein powder, usually from Vega. I mix this all up in the mighty Vitamix blender that I got as a Christmas gift in 2015.
If I'm at work for the day, Loyola University, I'll generally do one of the following:
Whole FoodsMarket - On my way to work, I routinely stop at Whole Foods to grab sustenance for the day, which usually includes something from their salad bar. My choice ingredients are no surprise: kale, spinach, broccoli, black beans, carrots, chickpeas, and beets. I might also pick up orange juice, coconut water, fruit, cashews, and sometimes a vega bar (though more and more I try to keep protein bars to a minimum).
Organic Girl Greens - When I'm pressed for time, things can get even simpler than the above. I keep ready to eat greens fromOrganic Girl - like baby kale, baby spinach, or super spinach - on hand in the office kitchen. I'll dress them up right in the container that they come in (oil and vinegar usually), possibly throw in some nuts or fruit, and boom, lunch is served! It doesn't get much quicker - or healthier - than that :-)
Chipotle - When I put in a hard workout or run in the middle of the work day, and a salad and or fruit won't suffice, Chipotle is often where I end up. There is one right down the street, and when I go, it's all about brown rice and black beans! An awesome post workout meal, and both of these items are vegan, as are all of their salsas. Click here for Chipotle's Nutrition page, which outlines all of their vegan items.
Tip: If you only order rice, beans, and a salsa (tomatoes for me), I discovered that Chipotle will charge you for what they call a "Three Pointer," which means that you'll save a dollar or so. If you just order rice and beans, they'll only charge you for two sides, which at Chicagoland Chipotles is 99¢ each!
Each of the above items probably means that I'm flying solo, but if it's a weekend or holiday, I may be treated to one of the dishes that you'll find in the dinner section. Before getting to that however, let's check in with TKV to see what lunch looks like for her on a typical work day.
TKV: Lunch is typically a very light meal for me. Usually, I like to fill the hours between breakfast and dinner with fresh fruit, water and a fortified protein milk, such as Orgain's Organic Protein Almond Milk. I’ve found that this not only keeps me pretty fueled throughout the day, it helps to curb cravings for sweets and cakes later in the day (I’m a recovering donut addict). Occasionally, I’ll treat myself to a smoothie bowl after a workout.
This is TKV territory (i.e. I'm not allowed in the kitchen :-). She not only cooks up a masterpiece of a meal on a daily basis, she usually films it while she does it, snaps a few photos when she's done, and then blogs about it after we've eaten. And this, of course, routinely comes on the heels of a full day as J. Lee, Esq. It's absolutely incredible, but she has a real passion for cooking, veganism, her Korean heritage, and health and nutrition in general; and when you combine that with her determined, inquisitive, and explorative disposition, magic ensues. I'll turn it over to her to list a few of our go-to meals, and you can visit her page - The Korean Vegan - for many more.
TKV: Dinner can range from your standard pasta and red sauce, to eggplant and sweet potato curry, to one of our favorites—bibimbap. In general, we like to keep our dinners pretty balanced—at least one kind of protein (beans, tofu, etc.), plenty of greens (spinach, kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage), and a complex carb of some sort (brown rice, brown rice pasta, Japanese sweet potatoes, etc.). Often times, I like to cook up a big batch of something—like my Kimchi Chigae Chili—and then pilfer from it for the rest of the week!
While we try to keep things fairly healthy during the week, on the weekends—especially if there’s a birthday or holiday involved—we like to have a little bit o’ sweet to round out the savory. Our favorites include a decadent chocolate cake (topped with NadaMoo, our favorite brand of vegan ice cream) and Korean donuts! Another thing I love to do on weekends (when I have a bit more time) is bake my own bread. There is nothing better than bread right out of the oven and we love focaccia!
Our dinner options really know no end, and Joanne could have listed another dozen dishes easy. But to close, I'll add one of my favorites from the ever-expanding array of TKV goodness, Joanne's The Best Damn Bean Burger Evar. When I first went vegan, I didn't really find myself missing any particular type of food, but I did sometimes miss the experiences that I associated with that food. In this regard, pizza, burgers, and sandwiches were the items that were trickiest to replace, but fortunately we've found the cure. The picture below says it all.