I grew up eating the standard American diet– heavy on processed food, white sugar, white bread, meat and dairy, and very little fruits and vegetables. I was quite happy eating that way and it never occurred to me that there was a different way of eating. I had heard the word “vegan” before. I knew what vegetarians were–strange people who liked cats a lot and didn’t eat meat. I couldn’t understand why anyone would eat vegetables when there were much more delicious foods around, like cheese and crackers.
There’s more to the story here, but let’s fast forward to two years ago when I decided to give veganism a try.
I was up late one night perusing the internet and I came across something about switching to a plant-based diet and how much healthier and happier people were who did. I was intrigued because I’d been struggling with depression and various health problems. It appeared that eliminating things like dairy and meat were making a difference. I totally bought it and decided to give it a try.
You can imagine my husband’s reaction when I told him I wanted to try eating a vegan, plant-based diet. Me? The woman who only ate four different kinds of vegetables on a regular basis, including ketchup and canned green beans? Me? The person who made homemade ice cream on a weekly basis and lived by the mantra “everything is better with butter and cream?”
So I went from enjoying juicy hamburgers on a weekly basis (not the fast food kind, mind you, I did have some standards), to enjoying leafy greens and beans over polenta, and green smoothies, and almond milk.
Did I mention that I also cut out gluten? Ah…vegan isn’t so hard, but gluten-free and vegan? That’s when it gets a bit more rough.
I started feeling better immediately. My skin looked fantastic. I started dropping weight without trying. (I also forgot to mention that I had gained nearly 100 lbs. from when I got married to the birth of my 3rd child. I cringe just thinking about that.) I stopped getting stomach aches every time I ate. I felt awesome.
When you feel good, you kind of forget how you felt before. Old habits slipped back in and there I was again eating the same way– with more fruits and veggies, but still heavy on the meat, dairy, chicken, eggs, and wheat flour.
Last October, I decided that it was time to revisit the healthy eating on a permanent basis. It was time to give up gluten again– once and for all, and really limit animal products. It was time to get myself off dairy and meat again. Also no white sugar. Right before the holidays, I decided all of this.
I knew it was going to be hard, so I stocked up on gluten-free flours and other things so I could still make a few treats during the holidays. And I did it without cheating. January came and I kept going. It’s the middle of May and I haven’t cheated once with eating gluten-free.
I haven’t been 100% vegan, but I’m getting there. Most days I am. I still eat seafood occasionally, as well as a tiny bit of dairy every so often.
I feel pretty great about sticking with it this long–that’s not to say it isn’t hard. I do have days when I want nothing more than to bite into a juicy hamburger or a big slice of pepperoni pizza. But I have to remember that this is a conscious choice I made to put my health first–to put myself first. I want to be healthy and happy. It helps me be a better wife, mother, and human being.
One of my favorite recipes that helped me ease into my new way of eating was these Vegan Tostadas with Homemade Corn Tortillas. They are incredibly filling with zero guilt afterwards. I never even miss the cheese.
This is one of those “what’s-in-the-fridge-that-needs-to-be-used-up” meals. So you could use different greens, use peppers and tomatoes instead of salsa, add corn or zucchini, leave out the cilantro, spice it up with chilies, sprinkle the top with sliced scallions/green onions.
Vegan Tostadas Made With Homemade Corn Tortillas
Homemade or store-bought corn tortillas (figure 1-2 per person)
1 bag of baby spinach
1-2 cups cooked quinoa
1-2 cups black, pinto or kidney beans
1/-1 cup salsa
1-2 avocados, diced
Optional ingredients– cilantro, corn, peppers, green onions, lime wedges
Heat 1/2″ to 1″ of canola oil in a large skillet. (Nonstick would be great here just in case the tortillas stick, which they shouldn’t with that much oil.) Add the tortillas, working in batches of one at a time, allowing them to cook in the hot oil until they are golden and crisp, about 2 minutes. Drain tortillas on paper towels.
Assemble tostadas by placing the crisp tortilla on a plate, followed by the baby spinach, top with remaining ingredients and serve with a lime wedge or two. (You’ll notice in the picture that I just tossed the quinoa, beans, salsa and avocado together and put it on top of the spinach.)
Homemade Corn Tortillas
Use this recipe. I don’t measure my ingredients anymore, I do it by how the dough feels in my hands–not too dry or crumbly, not too wet and gooey. It should feel like firm playdough.
I roll the dough into balls and place them on a plate. I cover it loosely with plastic wrap to prevent them from drying out.
In lieu of a tortilla press, I use a gallon-sized freezer bag and cut it on two sides so it opens like a book. I place a ball of dough in the center, fold the bag over it and weigh it down with the (flat) bottom of a heavy skillet or pan. I like mine a little thicker than the store-bought tortillas.
Heat up a griddle or nonstick skillet. (Don’t add oil for this part.) Cook the tortilla on each side for about 30 seconds. Transfer to a platter and cover to keep them warm until ready to serve.
If you have leftovers, they will be great the next day or two. Cover them tightly so they don’t dry out. You can also chill the dough for several days as long as it is tightly covered.
For more recipes from Lindsey, head on over to Cafe Johnsonia.