One Month Vegan: What I’m Eating and What I’ve Learned

As of Tuesday, my husband will have been eating vegan and gluten-free for a whole month. The reasons why are complicated and health-related and none of your business 😝, so let’s get to the real question: WHAT THE HELL DOES HE EAT?

Lots of chickpeas, really. Also, did you know brown rice pasta tastes basically the same as regular pasta? I’m finally figuring out tofu, so that’s been fun.

Even if this diet doesn’t end up doing the trick for Grant’s allergy problems (which I alluded to here), I’m really enjoying learning new techniques and trying new things. Once it’s consistently warm outside, I can’t wait to check out some vegan grilling options. (Not sure what those will be. Eggplant? Tofu planks? Hit me up if you have ideas!)

Once we decided to give vegan a try, I started reading. Before, when I had served G meatless meals, he had a hard time getting full. I think some of that may be psychological and based on expectations of what a meal should be, but I was legitimately concerned about getting enough protein into his diet.

Well, guess what? Vegan diets are, like, super full of protein. Lentils and quinoa and nuts, oh my.

My initial research was fueled by this cookbook ⬇⬇⬇, which I’ve had for a long time, but hadn’t done a whole lot of cooking out of. Isa has stews, pastas, sandwiches, salads, everything.

Meal planning in bed.

I read the whole thing like a novel, earmarked a bunch of the recipes, and I’ve been aiming to make one each week. Our very favorite so far has been lentilroni (another blogger made it here). It’s kind of like canned beefaroni (I always preferred the ravioli). But instead of weirdly textured “ground beef,” there are lentils, and pureed cashews make the sauce creamy and delicious. (I also forgot to soak the cashews the first time I made this, and it didn’t matter at all. I ground them to a powder in my food processor, and they incorporated with the vegetable broth perfectly.)

Minimalist Baker is another plant-based inspiration. Her roasted garlic mac and cheese is incredible.

One cannot live on peanut butter sandwiches on super-expensive gluten-free bread alone, so here’s a by-protein breakdown of what we’ve been eating (and really enjoying (mostly)).

PINTO OR BLACK BEANS

I made a big batch of pintos in my slow cooker, stuck most of them in the freezer, and now they’re ready to pull out for burrito bowls or taco salads at any time. Beans and rice is also an easy, simple meal, especially so with avocado and hot sauce.

TOFU

Whenever I’m at an Asian restaurant, I almost always order tofu as my protein. The crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside texture is so delicious, and I know that texture is accomplished with lots of oil.

A good runner-up tofu prep – and one that’s healthier and easier to make at home – is baked in a hot, hot oven. I press extra-firm tofu for at least 90 minutes to get excess water out, cube it, toss it in cornstarch, soy sauce, and olive oil, and bake it for 25 minutes at 425, tossing the tofu halfway through.

Crispy tofu, broccoli and tomatoes, and this creamy coconut turmeric rice. We topped it with bottled carrot-ginger salad dressing.

This method is easy, quick, and the resulting crispy tofu soaks up any sauce you drizzle on it. I’m partial to a homemade teriyaki or a citrus vinaigrette.

LENTILS

I’ve taken to making a batch of green lentils over the weekend to have on hand when we need a protein. I’ll stir them into salads or serve them with leftover grains and roasted vegetables.

CHICKPEAS

Hummus is a regular in our house, vegan diet or no, but I’ve learned some new ideas. Hummus pasta is my new Friday night too-tired-to-read-a-recipe meal. Boil pasta in well-salted water. Saute onions, garlic, and big handfuls of fresh spinach. Reserve a mugful of the pasta water and drain. Add half a container of hummus to the saute pan. Heat until creamy, adding splashes of pasta water as needed. Add drained pasta and stir. It will be so creamy, and it really scratches that mac and cheese itch. I add lots of red pepper flakes to serve.

We’ve also been eating chickpea scrambles a lot. Saute onions, garlic, and whatever veggies you’d like, add drained chickpeas. Smash them up a little and let them sizzle for 5 or so minutes, adding paprika, salt, and pepper to taste. Serve with salsa and roasted potatoes on the side.


What’s true regardless of which vegan protein you pick: there is little flavor in these plant-based options on their own. They all can take a lot of salt and a lot of hot sauce. They’ll also meld super well with whatever sauce you choose. On my list for this week is tofu cubes in BBQ sauce with corn, sweet potatoes, and broccoli. Maybe some fresh pineapple for a “Hawaiian” vibe?

I don’t think we’ll be eating vegan forever. G really likes and misses chicken, and you all know how I feel about a whole roasted bird. But I think we will stick to the routine of more meatless meals. It’s heart-healthy and planet-healthy, and a bag of lentils is a hell of a lot cheaper than a package of chicken.

What are your favorite plant-based meals?

Currently: April 2017

Hi, friends! Long time, no see. In fact, it’s been so long, I have a new name. Nice to meet you. I’m Caitlin Wallace.

I’ll write a longer wedding post when we have photos back (I cannot WAIT to see more of what the talented Elizabeth Thomas captured of our day!⬇⬇⬇), but it was perfect. It was everything I wanted it to be, which honestly still feels surprising to say. I am very pragmatic (some may even say I’m negative). Realistically, I just assumed that something would go wrong. And nothing really did 😍

UM!!!!! #aprilfoolsforlove #wallacewedding

A post shared by Caitlin Wallace (@caitlinmwallace) on

I’m easing back into blogging — along with some fun new freelance projects — with one of my favorite posts: CURRENTLY. I love hearing what people are reading, shopping for, and listening to. Hopefully you do, too.

Currently, I’m still struggling to get back on my feet and back on a regular schedule after the mad dash that was the past couple months. Life is feeling more and more normal each day, and I promise you wedding guests will be getting your thank you notes soon. Well. Soon-ish.

//INSPIRED BY//

Now that the countdown to the wedding is over, I can focus all my excitement energies on my next big event: attending RISE with my bestie Brooke. It’s a conference in Austin for women entrepreneurs, and I cannot wait to eat tacos, take a crazy amount of notes, and get inspired. It’s no secret that my day job isn’t the most exciting to me, so focusing my off-time on ✨fun✨ projects (like this blog) feels very important.

The conference isn’t until June, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I know the women attending will be a mixed bag of women with big-time, self-made careers and women like me, who are still really figuring that shit out. That feels really exciting. The first couple of speakers have been announced, and I am particularly excited to see Alison Faulkner of The Alison Show. She’s weird and fun, and she’s owns it. She also built her own brand from the ground up. Very bad ass.  

//WATCHING//

The premiere of Fargo season three was so good. Loving the dual characters played by Ewan McGregor, and that window A/C unit?! Woah.

I cannot, cannot, CANNOT wait for the premiere of The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s been on my special favorite books shelf for the past ten years. Elizabeth Moss is perfect for Offred. I’ve heard some small details have been added to update the dystopia to a 21st century reality, so I am real excited to see those.

G and I saw Life in theaters, and it was one of the most genuinely scary movies I have seen in a long time. The writing is a little stilted and annoying at times, but I jumped out of my seat more than once. A fun date movie, for sure.

ALSO, the Henrietta Lacks movie premieres on HBO tomorrow, and you KNOW I will be watching that. Based on an incredible book AND starring my buddy Oprah?! YEP! 🌈

//READING//

I am so, so thankful to get some of my reading time back now that wedding planning is done. My book club is meeting Wednesday to discuss Dreamland, by Sam Quinones. It’s a nonfiction, heavily researched book about the many complicated arms of the opiate epidemic. It is intense and scary, but also deeply interesting.

//LISTENING TO//

ONLY THE NEW KENDRICK LAMAR, AND THAT’S IT.

OK, not totally true, but I am loving this album. Definitely on repeat throughout the long-ass work day.

I’ve also been loving Girl’s Girls, Brittany Gibbons’ new podcast. It is deeply irreverent and not for any person who is squeamish about sex or body talk, but it makes me laugh out loud every week. It’s a great show to commute with.  

//EATING AND DRINKING//

G has been dealing with some unexplained allergic reactions, so we’re trying a vegan and gluten-free diet to see if that helps. My new husband has been eating a lot of tofu and chickpeas, and he hasn’t complained once. We love Minimalist Baker’s roasted garlic mac and “cheese” and baked, crispy teriyaki tofu.

I’m learning a lot about vegan cooking. I plan to write more about it later, once I have more experience with lentils under my belt.

What have you all been up to? Miss you all!!

Magical Roasted Chicken // Winter Go-To

Each season, I fall into a pattern with my cooking. Grilled meat and fresh veggies in the summer, chili as soon as it’s chilly outside, and roasted chickens at least once a week from September through May.

Roasted whole chicken is really the perfect food. Juicy and flavorful, a combo of white and dark meat (legs for me, please!), and the crispy skin that is better than any potato chip.

And, even better, it’s an entrée that you cook once and can eat multiple times. I’ll roast a chicken on Sunday, and we’ll eat some of it with simple sides like mashed potatoes and sautéed greens. I’ll pull the rest of the chicken, and then it’s ready for WHATEVER. Stir into soup; add to a green salad; make a panini.

What comes next is the magic part.

I didn’t take advantage of this magic for years, and I wish someone would have schooled me sooner. Until a few months ago, I would pull all the meat off the chicken carcass, and then I’d toss the bones.

What was I thinking?!

Now I know better. I put the carcass – bones, skin, and all – in the crockpot. I fill the crockpot with water. I turn it on low, leave it overnight or longer, and THAT’S IT. That’s chicken stock.

When I wake up in the morning, the whole house smells like a vat of chicken soup, and that’s not as gross as it sounds. It’s the best.

Even without adding any extra seasonings or aromatics, this stock tastes 10 times better than the stuff in the carton. And it’s FREE!

I’ll freeze half of it and put the rest in the fridge. Later in the week, I’ll use it to make soup. This one, with red lentils, butternut squash, and russet potatoes, is my current favorite.

MAGICAL ROASTED CHICKEN

  1. Preheat the oven to 425. This is HOT, so anything on the floor of the oven will smoke. Turning on your hood fan is a good idea (I learned this the hard way).
  2. Dry the chicken (around 5 lbs) thoroughly with paper towels. Put the chicken, breast side up, in a cast iron skillet. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine. Season heavily, inside and out, with salt and pepper.

    Before.
  3. Roast for 25 minutes at 425.
  4. Reduce the heat to 350. Baste the chicken all over with olive oil.
  5. Roast for 45 more minutes, basting with olive oil every 15 minutes.
  6. Take the chicken’s temperature by inserting an instant-read thermometer into the thigh of the chicken (picture of what this looks like up top!). This is the thickest part of the bird, and dark meat takes longer to cook than white. The bird is ready to remove from the oven when the thigh registers at 165 degrees. The drumstick should also be very wiggly, like the bone will slip right out. This may take an additional 10 minutes or so.
  7. Let the chicken rest, tented with foil, for at least 10 minutes while you finish preparing the rest of the meal. (The skin will lose some of its crispness when you tent the chicken, so eat a little first!)

Chicken roasting method inspired by What’s Gaby Cooking.

FREE CHICKEN STOCK

  1. Add the chicken carcass and any leftover skin to the crock of a slow cooker. Mine is 6 quarts.
  2. Add water to fill the crock.
  3. Turn the slow cooker to low, and let the broth simmer for at least 12 hours (overnight).
  4. Turn the slow cooker off. Let the broth cool for about an hour.
  5. Strain the broth through a mesh strainer into a large container. Discard the solids. BE CAREFUL; it will still be hot.
  6. Use for whatever your heart desires. Some of my faves: boil egg noodles in the stock, add chicken and frozen peas; egg drop soup; minestrone with meatballs; and farro soup. Stock keeps for several months in the freezer.

Good luck! Let me know what ✨magic✨ you cook up.

Currently: January 2017

It’s currently a SNOW DAY ✨.

I’m currently in fresh jammies, writing from bed. (Do you guys do this on lazy days? Get up, shower, and then get dressed, but in jammies? I do!)

This type of post format is all over the internet, but I’m particularly inspired by Shutterbean’s style of Currently post.

Let’s go…!

Watching: I’ve been very interested in royalty lately, both American and otherwise. I saw Jackie last night and loved it. It was much more intense than I expected, and the costuming was beautiful. The movie is framed around the interview for a post-JFK assassination interview Jackie gave to Life magazine, and reading more about that interview has been fascinating. I’m also keeping up my No Book-Buying pledge and reserved this book at my library to learn more about the Kennedys because once I get going on a topic, I cannot stop.

We’ve also been watching The Crown on Netflix, about the first years of Queen Elizabeth’s reign. It’s a little slow at parts, but watching the power dynamic between Elizabeth and her husband is so interesting and well-written. The costuming is also beautiful.

Reading: I read Needful Things by the my bestie Stephen King over Christmas. Excellent and just the right amount of scary. I immediately moved onto Rose Madder, also by King and also excellent, but not supernatural… at least not so far. It’s about an abused woman who escapes her husband, and the suspense level is crazy.

I’ve also been working my way through this best-of 2016 list that Rachel at The REWM compiled. Lots of good longform and a nice mix of light and heavy pieces.

Eating: Day five Whole 30, going strong. I still have a bunch of Christmas candy around the house that I need to toss. It’s not tempting yet, but I’m sure it will be.

I was really missing a glass of wine the other night while making dinner (I think I missed the ritual of sipping while stirring a pot more than anything else). I had an apple cider vinegar tonic instead, and — as you may have seen on Snapchat — it was terrible. But the bubbles helped me get over the craving hump.

Last night, I ordered a burger with grilled jalapenos, avocado, and bacon at my favorite place, but asked for it on greens instead of on a bun. Was it the same? No. But it was pretty damn delicious. I ordered fruit on the side, and they brought me fries by accident, and I didn’t even have one. 👍

Listening to: I’ve been really into ambient noise lately. Maybe it was the month straight of holiday music, but I’ve enjoyed the ambience and calm of the sounds on this site (listen, they even have various Hogwarts-inspired tracks). I’m very into Cozy Cottage, but with the grandfather clock and the purring cat muted.

Also, if you need some serious goal-getting motivation, check this amazing podcast: Making Oprah. It follows my girl from the beginning of her career to now, and it is so inspiring.

Inspired by: I got two awesome cookbooks for Christmas, and I have been reading them both like novels. Food52‘s newest cookbook, A New Way to Dinner, is brilliant. It has 16 weeks of meal plans, four for each season, that outline how you can get the bulk of your cooking done on the weekend. It. Is. So. Good. The pictures are lovely; the flavor combinations sound delicious. This one will be food-splattered very shortly.

I was also gifted Celebrations, from Danielle at Against All Grain. I am decidedly not against grains, but this cookbook has some good Whole 30 inspo. I am making the Curry Pumpkin Soup ASAP.

What are you reading, watching, listening to lately? 

My Intentions for 2017

Goal-setting has never been a strength of mine. I over-estimate or under-estimate; I change my mind about what I want midway through. What I am good at, however, is intention-setting.

Since this distinction – goals vs. intentions – may be clear to me but unclear to you, here are some examples:

Setting a goal to lose 30 pounds isn’t my style, but setting the intention to exercise four times a week is.

Instead of picking an amount of money I want to save, I set the intention that I’ll stop spending money on a certain type of thing (ahem, see below).

I’d like to get better. I hear goal-setting is the bee’s knees, and I want to get on board. But I’ve got to take baby steps. I’ve learned that testing the waters first works better for me. Jumping in, feet-first, is scary and big, and I’m not quite there yet. (This is me, being very honest: Goals are scary because then you actually have to do them.)

What I can do, right now, is set intentions for the year. These intentions will help me to create the life that I want, regardless of the bigger goals I’m still working out.

2017 INTENTIONS

1. Exercise every day.

Incorporating exercise into my daily routine has been a cyclical thing for me. Some weeks, I’m excellent, and some weeks, I barely get out my sneakers.

Making exercise a daily, non-negotiable task is a habit I’m going to create this year.

Doing the 30-Day Pilates Body Challenge via The Balanced Life really helped to change my frame of mind on this issue. The workouts on this plan are tough, and 90% of them are less than 10 minutes long. (HIGHLY RECOMMEND!)

While I’d  like to make sure that I’m incorporating longer workouts, like hour-long yoga classes and outdoor runs, having the 10-minute workout to fall back on makes this intention feel doable. Now that I’ve finished the challenge, I’ll often combine two or three 10-minute workouts into a longer Pilates routine.

But even on days where I’m not feeling well, or I’m over-scheduled, or I’m visiting family, I can make 10 minutes for myself.

2. Continue to make the most of mornings.

Productive mornings are crucial to success for me. I am not a night owl, and I never will be. Especially in the winter, when it’s dark before I even drive home from work, my evening expectations of myself cannot be too high. All I want to do is make dinner (or heat up leftovers if I’m lucky), spend time with G, and decompress.

If my workout doesn’t get done in the morning, if I don’t do that load of laundry, if I don’t finish that freelance article, I will be kicking myself all day. Because I know that my relaxing evening will be interrupted by completing this task. And the anxiety of that impending interruption is almost worse than the actual interruption.

Is this anxiety emotionally healthy? Nope. Should I take a chill pill and treat myself with the same grace I reserve for others? Sure should.

And I’d like to work on that. I’d like to work on finding the balance between sleeping in when I truly need to and executing my Miracle Morning the rest of the time.

Right now, it’s all too easy for one morning of sleeping in to turn into a whole week of hitting snooze. Recommitting to a meaningful morning is one of my biggest 2017 priorities. (Expect lots of 5:30 AM emails, friends and colleagues!)

3. Be grateful.

I stole this idea from Ms. Rachel Hollis of The Chic Site. As part of her awesome New Year program, she is encouraging her followers to write down ten things they’re thankful for each day. They can be little things (warm stew on a cold day) or big things (financial stability), but I’ve found that this practice keeps me on the lookout for blessings all day, everyday.

I have a lot to be thankful for. Hashtag blessed, like Bruno Mars.

4. Buy no books.

I saved this one for last because it hurts.

It’s truly insane. I’m not sure that I can do it. And, HONESTY ALERT, I bought Oprah’s new cookbook online this morning. #CantBeTamed

I deleted the Amazon app off my phone as soon as I made this mistake. (I’m sure it will be a tasty mistake.)

This is an area when I justify my spending unjustly. I think that since the purchases are books – which are awesome and healthy and always a good thing – I can buy however many I want. But the truth is that I have approximately 8,000 unread books in various rooms of our house and that shit is out of control.

This year, I want to read that backlog, donate/gift what I’m no longer interested in, and cultivate a happier/healthier/more moderate book-buying attitude for 2018.

(Oh, and I will continue to buy books as gifts, because there is no more perfect gift, okbye.)

What are your goals and intentions for 2017? Let’s keep each other accountable!