Sunday, November 20, 2011

80% Plant Based Diet Is Better Than Nothing

I have had a good eight months eating a "sort-of" vegan diet.  The die-hard vegans do not like my wimpy rules around being "Vegan Leaning", but I have consumed only 20% of the meat and 10% of the dairy that my old diet contained.

One person challenged me that "Vegan Leaning" does not exist... but if you Google the term (in quotes) you will find several references (not all written by me) that support the positive aspects of eating in this manner.

I am still trying and I find when I eat too much meat or dairy my body feels lethargic.  I think the plant-based balanced diet gives me a more "clear" feeling and additional energy.

Granted I ate at Five Guys Hamburgers tonight... but according to the rules of "Vegan Leaning", Saturday and Sunday are open season for meat or dairy.  Plus, I ordered the single meat hamburger instead of the double meat cheeseburger of my past life.  That really is progress!  I often order the "veggie burger" in most restaurants, but Five Guys only offers a bun with tomatoes, lettuce and condiments as a meat replacement.  Sounds awfully dull.  I am not trying to bore my taste-buds to death.

Thanksgiving is in three days, and is not on a weekend, but special dispensation exists for giant feasts where all the other people are meat eaters (I don't want to be difficult).  Plus, no vegan should have to skip my wife's homemade pumpkin pie (yep, dairy, plus it is even better when topped with whipped cream).

While I started this simply for forty days back during Lent, it has become an ongoing part of my life.  I stumble a lot, but I do find myself more healthy and clear headed than when I was in a cheese and meat coma most of the time.

Eggs have become my main ongoing mulligan.  I do not eat them daily, but do find a good breakfast taco or egg white omelet can hit the spot and give me a boost of protein.  The best part of "Vegan Leaning" is I get to keep making the rules.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Not A Good Week For Vegan Leaning Choices

I was in Cleveland to deliver a keynote speech at a large conference.  I arrived late and the hotel was not located near any restaurants or other shops.  I was hungry when I went to the "Welcome Reception".  It did not take long to find all the food choices involved meat and cheese.

I had to eat, so I gathered the crackers and some strawberries.... but the I saw the "Lamb Lolly-Pops".  Oh come on, lamb has been my favorite meat since I was three years old.  There was a pile of lamb chops calling my name.  One would not be a problem.

I at six.

The following day my flight home did not serve food.  The kids had not eaten yet, as my wife was away, so once I had gotten everyone settled I ordered a pizza.  I was going to make a salad for myself.

I ate three slices of cheese pizza.


Monday, September 26, 2011

The Worst Vegan Ever

I was explaining my "Vegan Leaning" philosophy to a friend.  As I told him about my weekday vegan diet, and my weekend's off to eat whatever, I added that I occasionally cheat during the week... in fact, that day was my wife's birthday and we were going to a steak house for dinner.

He proclaimed "You are the worst vegan, EVER!".

This made me laugh, but I then last Friday I was at lunch with a large group and there were no vegan options.  I ended up with a turkey sandwich.  With every bite I kept hearing my friend's words echoing through my head..."you are the worst vegan, EVER!".  (I think he is right).

Today is Monday and I am back on track.  Besides, I am not a really a vegan, I am vegan leaning!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Franklin's BBQ Is Dangerous To Those Wanting To Make Vegan Food Choices

My vegan leaning diet is set aside on the weekends.  Today my wife went and stood in line at Franklin's BBQ (in Austin, Texas) so that we could sample what many call the "BEST BBQ" you can eat (Texas Monthly has named it the best BBQ in Texas, and Bon Appetit has dubbed it the best BBQ in America).  The wait was over two hours to take home a few pounds of meat and sides.

Even on weekends I am careful about eating meat.  While I will have some, I keep my portions small.  But this BBQ from Franklin's made me forget my plant based diet desires.  The brisket was great, the sausage was even better, and the ribs... OH MY GOODNESS!  To know this BBQ exists makes you question being vegan (or "Vegan Leaning").

I will agree with the experts... it is the best BBQ in the world.  It made me want more.  I could easily quit my vegan efforts if I was promised meat that tasted this good with every meal.

However, was it worth a wait in line of two hours?  The survey says "NO".  My wife and kids (who all went to stand in line) said they would not do it again.  I am pretty sure that my patience level would not bring me to multiple hours of standing in line to get smoked meat.  I hear that more people wait in line than there is food available for sale.  I think if I stood there for three hours and they ran out of food I would freak out.

If you are trying to avoid meat.... I suggest you do not go and eat a Franklin's BBQ or you might just decide to try the Atkins Diet instead.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Vegan Leaning


I continue my plant-based adventure that began last February.  While I do not keep a 100% vegan diet, I have become "Vegan Leaning".

A friend who is a dedicated vegan tells me that there is no such thing as "Vegan Leaning".  He is wrong. It exists.  I know it is real because I invented it.  It may not be a movement that is sweeping the nation, but I have found it works great for my life.

Monday through Friday I make vegan choices at all meals.  Once in a while (about once a week) I let it slip and have a small amount of meat or dairy (today I had a Blueberry muffin), but most of the time I am very good about keeping a plant based diet during the work week.

On the weekends I do whatever I want, but have found I must keep to moderation or my body reacts poorly.  This usually involves grilling a steak or fish on Sunday, and allowing the sweets with dairy and eggs (cookies, cake, ice cream, etc...) as a treat.

This keeps me about 3/4 vegan, and I am feeling great. I continue to feel "lighter", although I only lost five pounds.  My energy level is high.  The biggest benefit is my awareness of the food choices I make all the time.  I no longer just eat everything that crosses my path.

Spread the word about vegan leaning!  It means being vegan without having to skip out totally when served a great tasting steak!!!

Definition of "Vegan Leaning":  A person who chooses to eat a vegan diet most of the time.  Usually a person who is "Vegan Leaning" eats a plant based diet Monday through Friday, while allowing meat and dairy on the weekends. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Eating Vegan in Italy -- That Is Just Crazy Talk

Our family spent ten days in Northern Italy with a group of friends.  I realized on day one that my "Vegan Leaning" diet was not going to work.  The Italians eat meat and dairy at all meals.  The breakfast in the hotel was cheese and cold cuts.  Pizza was a staple to this troop of 14 which included 7 kids. 

And one more thing... Gellato!!!

I held out for two days, but on the third afternoon I could not resist getting a small cone at a Gellateria.  That was it, the flood gates were open.  I had gellato everyday.... SOMETIMES TWICE!

I decided to go with the old saying "When in Rome....."  Of course we were in Verona, Venice and Milan,... but you get the idea.

Upon my arrival home I went back to my "Vegan Leaning" choices on Monday - Friday, but in Italy the idea of trying to be vegan was just crazy.

Friday, June 10, 2011


I am still making vegan choices in my daily diet, but more and more I am finding rationalizations to eat fish.

My busy travel schedule put me in Bermuda where I could not pass up on eating fish at nearly every meal.  I mean, come on... I am on an island and they have some local "rock fish" that was delicious.  I can eat almonds and broccoli anywhere, but whole on an island for two days I felt fish was a legitimate choice.

Then I was at dinner with a friend in Orlando and there was nothing on the menu that could even begin to look vegan.  My choice was lettuce and some tomatoes or Fish Tacos.  I went for the fish tacos.  Besides,  I attended college in San Diego in the 1980s and fish tacos were just finding their way into the culture.  I have always been a fan of this delightful food from the days when you could only get them in Mexico and San Diego.  As an early adopter of the fish in a tortilla,  I feel a kinship with this taco product.

Next stop, Boston.  A friend and I went to dinner and he wanted sushi.  I like sushi, and since my wife does not like to eat raw fish, I figured I would not be having the opportunity any time soon.  WOW, it was good.

While I had been eating small amounts of fish on the weekends, this week of travel put sea creatures in my mouth nearly everyday.  I rationalized it each time, but in the end  I did not regret my fish eating adventures.

I think my vegan diet is making me live better... but you know, I have no problem with eating a little meat.  Plus, there is even a name for those who just eat fish with their veggies.....  "Pescatarian".  I figure if someone has named it, it must be a real thing.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Two Days Of Meat Eating

While with a client recently at a resort in Bermuda I ate more meat in two days than I have had since February.

I was conducting a seminar at the partner retreat for a law firm and I was included in their social activities for the time I was with them.  This included two amazing dinners and a lunch that can only be described as an "event".

While I have remained "vegan leaning" since Lent ended I am not 100% eating plant based food.... and I made the decision to not ask my client for a special menu.  I did make the vegan choices and avoided most of the dairy (the passed snacks looked good, but were all cream and cheese based).

For dinner both nights I ordered fish.  Being in Bermuda I did not want to pass up the local seafood, and I was not disappointed.  I have been eating fish on occasion for a few weeks, especially on the weekends.

But the real breach of my vegan diet was at the lunch.  Not just lunch, but lunch with grilling lessons and rum tasting.  There were four personal chefs who cooked and instructed each group of ten.  It was a four course meal which included an amazing RockFish dish and then a plate of steak and vegetables.  I could have passed, as there was lots of food available for me to eat... but I wanted the steak.

Okay, I will admit it.... it was AMAZING.  Part of it was the quality of the meat and the skill of the chefs.  The other part was I had not had a steak in months.

The good news was I woke up the next day feeling fine.  I have had some reactions to eating meat and dairy since changing my diet, but this time it was no problem.

I will continue to stay "Vegan Leaning".... but my will power might not be as good going forward.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Still Mostly Vegan

Over a month since Lent ended I am still faithfully "Vegan Leaning".

Monday through Friday I am hanging tight to my vegan diet, and on the weekends I stray a bit.  Mainly fish on Sunday, but I have been tempted by lasagna, pancakes, pasta sauces, bacon, pork loin, and cake... mmmm cake.

I will admit that when I stray too much my body rebels.  I have taken to the mostly plant based diet and feel fantastic.  The thought of going back to my old diet (which was somewhat healthy by regular standards) is not appealing.

Now since the end of Lent I am more prone to sneak a bite of something here and there (even during the week), but I was trying to calculate how much butter, milk, eggs, and other dairy products I have avoided in the past three months.  Thinking of the gallons of milk products avoided.... it makes me nearly puke to just thinking about it.

Same thing goes for the piles of meat that have not been ingested.

Watching Man vs. Food on Travel Channel is now impossible without my being fully grossed out by Adam Richman and his dietary choices.  BAAAAARRRRRRFFFFFFFFFF.

Interestingly my weight loss has been less than expected.  I shed five pounds quickly, but leveled out.  Now this is because my diet is not low calorie.  I eat a lot.  If I am hungry, I eat.  Plus nuts and other foods are not low in fat either.

I am sleeping great, and my dreams are much more vivid.  No idea why.

Finally, vegan diet has eliminated most desserts... as they often have milk and eggs.  However, I have discovered wonderful vegan dark chocolates (hmmmm, maybe another reason the weight loss is not that much).  I have also learned about the cause of "Slave-Free Chocolate" and the mis-treatment of people in many coco producing countries.  If you are not checking on if your chocolate is grown in areas without slavery, you should be.  Turns out this is a serious human rights issue.  Who knew?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Lasagna Leaves Me Feeling Blah

Since Lent ended three weeks ago I have remained "Vegan Leaning".  Monday through Friday I try my best to make mostly vegan choices all day long.  On Saturday and Sunday I am on a free-for-all.... but still find my meat and dairy being very limited.  I have especially stayed away from dairy.

Although not 100% (even during the weekdays) my vegan diet choices have continued for the most part.  I still have been feeling great and am happy with the lifestyle choices I have made along the way the last few months.  I will admit on Easter Sunday I felt awful after five slices of bacon, two waffles, and a whole non-vegan brunch (think eggs and dairy) with friends.  Come evening I felt very sluggish.  Since then I have been careful.

Friday night my daughter's Drama Club at school hosted a "Dinner Theater" production.  The meal served was lasagna, bread, salad and homemade brownies.  Even though it was Friday, I decided to go ahead and eat the meal rather than go hungry. There was a lot of cheese in this lasagna, and I should have limited my intake.... but once I started I saw no reason to stop.  I even ate the brownie!

Big mistake.  The rest of the night and most of Saturday morning I felt like crap.  I was not in pain, but I could tell that my digestive track was in flux over the high level of non-vegan food that had been introduced in one setting.  A few bites here and there had not been a problem.... but this meal was over the top.

I had heard that going back to a regular diet after this long vegan would not be easy.  I think I learned my lesson.  Nothing about the meal was really even that good, certainly not worth the way I felt afterwards.

Saturday I returned to my vegan cuisine and was feeling better by the afternoon.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Hello BACON !!!

Today is Easter Sunday.  Lent is over.

I did it - I kept vegan for well over forty days (56 to be exact, as I started early, and Lent is actually longer than 40 days).  

There were only two slip-ups:
1.  A taste of some dip at a party that I was told was okay for my diet needs, but had a tiny amount of bacon in the mix 
2.  A spoonful of peanut butter that was a special honey infused peanut butter.  
In both cases I did not know, and neither had a measurable amount non-vegan ingredients.  Thus, they were not really slip-ups.... but instead just part of living in the real world.

So how does one break the "Vegan for Lent" adventure?  Duh, ..... BACON!!!

And waffles (there are eggs in my waffle recipe) with real butter! 

It has been a great experience, and I expect to continue as a pseudo-vegan going forward.  I will be making mostly plant-based choices, but will not remain 100% vegan.  I think I will make a fairly good effort Monday-Friday, but then have more options on the weekends.  

Last night we attended a 50th Birthday Party for two friends.  It was quite an event.  There were vegetarian / vegan food options, but the birthday cake and the surrounding "cake balls" looked amazing.  I almost rationalized at 10 PM that we were only two hours from Easter.... and thus could eat the dessert (it was already Easter in some parts of the world).  But alas, I stayed strong (knowing that bacon was awaiting me this morning!).

Thank you to everyone who shared in my adventure, read this blog, sent me recipes, gave moral support / encouragement, and even those who mocked me for my "Vegan for Lent" decision.  It was a difficult Lent commitment.... but well worth the experience.

And special "THANKS" to my wife, who supported me through the whole process.  She is a great cook, and her vegan meals were among the best food I had during Lent.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Two More Days

I am in the final stretch of my "Forty Days Vegan", which is actually "56 Days Vegan" due my starting early, etc...

It really has been a good experience, AND a lesson in discipline.  It is not easy in our society to live on a special diet.  The response from other people has been interesting:  few are indifferent.... some folk praise the effort and others look at me like I am nuts.

I lost weight.  While the scale shows positive progress, it is not nearly as much as I had anticipated.  I lost five pounds in the first couple of weeks, but then it leveled off.  I lost no more weight over the past month.  I figure it has to do with the reality that my calorie count was not probably reduced very much.  I ate when I felt hungry, and I often was hungry.  I chose healthy foods most of the time, but nuts and other healthy foods are not low in calories.  I will admit that I did eat some vegan dark chocolate as my dessert of choice quite often.

I feel great.  My energy level is clearly improved, although I was not feeling bad or lacking energy before I began, so the difference is minimal.  I just like how I am feeling, so that is a good thing.

My mind is clear.  This one is hard to explain.  Again, I did not feel "un-clear" before I started eating vegan.  My focus is better, and my dreams are much more vivid.  I use the term "clear", which is subjective and hard to understand, but others who have chosen a plant based diet nod in agreement when I try to explain this side effect.

It has been educational.  The attention that one must pay to the ingredients in processed and packaged foods automatically made me learn more about food.  I also took an active role in learning about nutrition, and what vitamins and minerals the human body needs.  I don't think I will ever look at food the same way again.

Being vegan has been a conversation starter.  My favorite experience was at a Computerworld Magazine conference where I was the keynote speaker.  At lunch the waiter was visibly shocked by my request for a vegan meal (not vegetarian).  The look of horror lead to laughs all around the table, and a lively conversation about food with the lunch companions. (I blogged about this experience in a post called "I said vegan, not Al Qaeda" on March 10, 2011).

I learned to cook new things.  My wife and I both had to make adjustments to how we cooked.  While I was the only one in the family who kept a vegan diet, everyone joined in on several meals.  We discovered there were many non-meat and dairy free options that were equally delicious.  Other things were good enough.  A few things were awful.  Overall we experimented with new recipes and had some great meals.

I had fun.  The whole experience was better than I had expected.  I had worried about the level of commitment that it would take to stay true to a vegan diet, but while difficult, it was not impossible.  I was most concerned about eating while traveling, but with some planning (and carrying a stash of snacks in my backpack) I was able to navigate all my business trips without incident.

Will I stay vegan?   This is the big question.  The answer at this point is I am going to attempt keeping a vegan diet Monday through Friday.  On the weekends it will be my choice on what to eat.  I do know that I do not plan the weekends to be meat and dairy shmorgishborg, but instead the opportunity to have some wonderful foods when the opportunity is right.  I do miss really good meat and fish (no desire for fast food or processed meat products...yuck), and I want to eat homemade waffles and some other favorites.  This plan seems like a good way to keep going with the structure of being vegan, with some wiggle room.  Otherwise it can be a slippery slope back to my old habits of eating anything that crosses my path.  My hope is my weekends be mostly vegan, with the exceptions being for some great options, not crap food.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Lambert's BBQ Definitely NOT the Place for a Vegan in Austin

After a business happy hour last night I was invited to join a group of CEO's, CFO's and other friends for dinner. It was a fun group of people, and I wanted to go... but I knew at whatever restaurant selected there might not be a lot of choices for my vegan diet.  This was a group of carnivores!

I have had a rule on while on the "vegan for Lent" adventure to NOT be a pain in the ass to others who are not keeping to my plant based diet.  I just went along with my dinner companions, and did not mention in advance my situation.

We ended up at Lambert's BBQ in downtown Austin.  This place is a local favorite for those who love meat and all the delicious dairy based things that can be served with and near meat (Think Macaroni & Cheese or vegetables floating in butter).  This is NOT the place for vegans.

Fortunately I was not hungry (I had made a stop at Whole Foods before the Happy Hour).  Unfortunately I am having cravings for a really good steak.  Watching the other people eat pork ribs and steaks the size of my head left me wanting Easter to arrive.

I asked the waitress what on the menu I could eat, the only answer was a side of broccoli, that would be special ordered to be cooked in olive oil instead of butter.  While good, it was hardly the experience I had at other restaurants.

The lesson learned..... If BBQ is featured in the name, vegans go hungry.

The good news was it was a very fun evening of conversation with some old friends -- and that is really what matters.  The food looked amazing (I have eaten there before, it is really good!), and I am even more wanting of that steak than I was yesterday!!!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

I Want A Steak

As I enter the last week of Lent there is a question as to what I will do after Easter.

The commitment to embrace a vegan diet for Lent was difficult.  When asked by friends how it has been, my standard answer is "it has been a lesson in discipline".  Meat and dairy sneak their way into many prepared foods.  I read every label and make conscious decisions about all that goes into my body.  However, as I round third base on the adventure, I am thrilled with the whole process.   I feel great.  I lost four pounds.  I am thinking clearly.

I have no desire to go back to the standard diet of eating anything.  I believe that the reason I feel so good is the elimination of dairy.  When I look at all items I have had to skip because of milk, cheese and eggs, I find that I have skipped a lot of "crap".  While not all foods with dairy are bad for you, many bad foods do have dairy.  The commitment to eating vegan has forced me to make good choices.

I do want to eat meat.  Not all meat, just really good meat.  I long for a small steak or some great brisket.  The thought of cheap meat is not appealing... but a small high quality steak sounds delicious.

So what do I do next week?  Not sure yet.  My guess is I stay true to vegan most of the time, especially in regards to dairy.... but not 100%.  Maybe I become a "Weekday Vegan".  A while back I watched a TED TALK by founder Graham Hill.  He is vegetarian five days a week, and eats meat on the weekend.  Not a bad idea.  (CLICK HERE to watch the video)

What do you think?  -- "Thom Singer: The Weekday Vegan".  Monday through Friday: Eat nothing with a face or a mother... and nothing that came from anything with a face or a mother.  Saturday and choice!  I think I like it!

thom singer

Friday, April 15, 2011

Eating Gluten Free - In Restaurants and Grocery Stores

My "vegan dining adventure" for Lent has shown me a whole other side of eating.  Having not had many issues with foods or food allergies, I had never put much thought into my food.  With the exception of lobster (which makes me barf three hours after eating), I basically could eat anything I wanted.  If I saw food, I ate it.

Being vegan has taught me about nutrition and ingredients.  I find myself having to read every package and consistently asking questions in restaurants and grocery stores.

This has opened my eyes to what people face who have stronger motivations in keeping to a special diet.  My wife cannot eat anything in the vegetable pepper family (think Bell Peppers).... it wont kill her, but it is not a good thing for her to injest.  My nephew is allergic to peanuts and his parents have had to be diligent about knowing what he is eating.  My father-in-law cannot eat dairy or chocolate.  Others are sensitive to any number of things.

While I have been aware of special diets, having been a "human garbage disposal" has meant it never seemed that hard to monitor everything you eat.  I now am a changed man, it is hard to have a special diet!

In recent years "Gluten" has become a leader in the news of nutrition and what many people need to avoid.  While being vegan does not mean I have to eat "gluten free", I have encountered many vegans and vegetarians who also avoid gluten.

If I thought meat and dairy snuck their way into food... WOW, gluten is everywhere.

I was recently introduced to Triumph Dining.  They publish the largest guides to dining gluten free, and they are a growing company.  They have both a grocery guide and a restaurant guide, and they also sell them in a combo pack.

I wish there were similar guides that were this comprehensive for vegans!  (Maybe there is and I just never found it).

Turns out my favorite burrito at the Vegan Yacht (my favorite food trailer in Austin, TX), The Freeto Burrito, is also gluten free!  That is just an added benefit to this great culinary delight.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Tofu Migas Scramble

I have been having fun trying to create delicious foods while on this vegan adventure.

On Saturday morning my wife encouraged me to make a "tofu scramble" using leftovers and other items that were in the refrigerator.  This became "Tofu Migas", and the flavor was off the charts good.


Firm tofu.   About 1/3 of the package.  Pressed to remove the liquid.  cut into 1/2 inch squares.

1/2 an onion, diced.

1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced.

one ToFurkey sausage, sliced into small discs. 

1 cup raw spinach.

1 tablespoon garlic, diced small

1/2 cup cooked broccoli.

2 corn tortillas, sliced into 1 inch x 2 inch rectangles.

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast

1/2 cup black beans 

1/2 cup salsa with green chilies

Saute the onion in olive oil.  Add the all other ingredients in the order of what needs the longest to cook (spinach goes in last).  Voila.  Tofu Migas Scramble.

I welcome anyone to send me recipes, as I still have two more weeks until Lent ends.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Anniversary Dinner at Trio

Last night my wife, Sara, and I went out for dinner to celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary.  We selected Trio, the restaurant at the Four Season's Hotel in downtown Austin.  Sara called ahead to see if they could accomdate my vegan diet, and was assured they would take good care of me.

Wow, what a great night..  When we were seated we were presented with a menus that read "Happy 19th Anniversary" across the top, and the hostess announced that the chef and waitress were aware of my being vegan, and that they had special options.

The chef prepared a vegetable risotto that was amazing,  I also had their mixed green salad, minus the goat cheese.  For dessert we shared a pairing of three (trio!) of homemade sorbets (apple/basil, berry, and orange). (Sara had scallops and shrimp... which she also thought were fantastic!).

The above photo was a special plate they brought along with the sorbets.  It included some chocolates and cookies. I hear they tasted good!

Erika, our waitress, did a great job of making sure that my dining experience lived up to the levels one would expect at a nice restaurant.

I have been to three higher end restaurants since I began my "Vegan for Lent" diet, and each of those meals rank amongst the best restaurant meals I can remember in a long time.  I think that even if I go back to eating meat and dairy, I will tell restaurants I am vegan, as the special dishes they create especially for me are even better than what is on the menu!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Join Me For The Last Half of Lent - Go Vegan for 20 Days!!

While my wife is not holding to a vegan diet during Lent, she is trying to eat along with me much of the time.  We had a wonderful date to the Whole Foods Flagship Store (in downtown Austin) yesterday.  We had lunch, browsed for inspirational vegan menu ideas, and shopped for the ingredients for me to make paella.

We started by eating lunch at the vegan restaurant / food counter inside the store.  The "Seitan Gyros" tasted really good, but the serving size was small, and thus I needed to buy another snack before we left the market.  This is my ongoing issue with vegan food at restaurants.... there is not meat or cheese, and then to top it off the serving size is small. If I am going to be vegan I want full-sized portions.  The double-whammy of small food and no meat and dairy is the part that turns me off.

We discovered ToFurky sausages, which were perfect for my paella.  I did serve meat sausages to the family, but my serving got the ToFurky.  Overall, it was not bad.  I wont lie.... not the best sausage I have ever had, but as a meat substitute it was really good.  The paella was great, and I added white beans to make up for the lack of shrimp.

This whole Forty Days Vegan adventure (which is now Fifty Days Vegan, because I started early) has had wonderful side effects.  I am gaining education about nutrition, learning to cook new things, exploring creativity in regards to food, and it has opened up many interesting conversations with friends and strangers.

I am now over halfway through my 50 days, and I have no complaints.  I feel great, and am finding the food mostly to be delicious.  We went to party the other night and the host made ceviche, but instead of shrimp he used Heart of Palm.  WOW.... it was the best ceviche I have ever had.

I am getting a lot of questions from friends about the effort involved to go vegan.  I am challenging people to join me for the last twenty days.  Easter is 21 days away, so start today!!!  Jump in now and do a "Half-Lent Adventure" (you need not be Catholic to participate in Lent.  It is an exercise in discipline... not a commitment to Rome!).

Come on... who is game for HALF A LENT vegan?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Veggie Tacos

Last night I had to make dinner for the family.  While I am the only one who has gone vegan for Lent, my wife is eating along with me on many occasions.  The kids? not so much.  Plus, they are kids, so the limits to what they will eat still require "kid friendly" foods.

Thus the challenge was to create one meal that would allow everyone a healthy and delicious meal.


I purchased a pre-cooked chicken breast for the kids, and then made veggie taco filling.

1 - onion, sliced.
1 - zucchini, sliced into two-inch sticks.
5 - mushrooms, sliced
1 - tomato
1 - clove garlic, diced
1 cup - spinach (added at last minute)
*(Bell pepper would be a great addition, too... but my wife is allergic to peppers)

Saute the above until soft.

Serve with whole wheat tortillas, re-fried black beans, rice, avocado slices, "veggie shreds" fake cheese, and salsa.

Dang, it was good!  I will eat this again and again.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Losing Weight By Eating Vegan

I have lost 5 pounds in four weeks via my vegan diet. While I am not "fat", I could easily afford to lose 10+ pounds, so I am halfway through my vegan adventure and have lost half the weight I would hope to lose.  That works for me!

I feel great, the food has been good, and I have gotten used to the difficulties of avoiding meat and dairy.  This is an exercise in discipline and planning.  Beyond that it all has come together to be a positive experience.  Most of my friends who thought this was a disaster waiting to happen are pleasantly surprised with my dedication to the vegan diet.

I am working hard to make sure I am getting a variety of types of foods and I think my body has adjusted to my new, although temporary, eating habits.

Which leads me to the big question everyone is wondering: "Will I go back to my old diet after Lent ends?".  Hmmmm, not sure.  I feel so good that I do not want to undermine the health benefits.  Along with skipping the meat and milk... I have to leave many sweets behind, as cakes, cookies, etc... all contain milk and eggs  (I do eat vegan dark chocolate quite often).  Instead I choose fruit for most desserts.

I don't think it is the meat I will avoid after this is over (but I will choose veggie much more often), but instead the dairy.  I have no proof of this, but I have little cravings for the dairy.... and I think that the elimination of the milk products is the reason I feel so good.

The meat on the other hand -- yesterday I was the keynote speaker at a Young Professionals Luncheon in San Marcos, TX.  The meal was catered in from a local BBQ joint.... and the whole meeting room smelled like brisket.  Oh golly did it smell great.  This pretty much proved to me that I will not stay away from meat 100% after Easter!

If I do hit my desired weight I would hate to eat my way back up the scale too quickly, so I must consider my food choices very closely come April 24th.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Vegan Food Not As Appealing While Camping

My kids and I belong to a group called "Adventure Dads and Kids".  It is a group of dads who take their kids camping each month during the school year to a variety of Texas State Parks.

My daughters and I have participated for four years, and the trips are simple fun with the kids.  We hike, swim, cook-out, and drink a little beer (well, the dads do).

The food is typical camping stock.  Fajitas and hot dogs at dinner.  Eggs, pancakes, and bacon for breakfast.  Always good.... but never even close to vegan.

This weekend I had to bring in my own food.  While I ate veggie hot dogs and granola, I watched the fajitas reach perfection on the grill... topped with the cheese, they were tempting.  Breakfast for the rest of the tribe included bacon.  There is something about bacon cooked while camping that makes it amazing.  My veggie sausages just did not have the same appeal.

The fresh fruit was great, but I must admit that camping was one of the harder parts of the vegan adventure.  I wanted those pancakes really bad.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Being Vegan In Austin

If you are going to go vegan for Lent, or any other reason, ..... Austin, Texas is a great place to do it.

Today a friend took me to Beets.  It is a restaurant on 5th Street (near Mopac).  I have been there before, but at the time found it to be over priced raw food.  Today I found it to be an amazing culinary delight.

Everything really is about perspective.

Austin has lots of great places where a vegan can eat.  I have found myself at Casa de Luz and The Vegan Yacht quite often.  I also duck into Whole Foods more than I care to admit to grab something if I need a snack.

I continue to enjoy the food I am eating, I feel great, and I have lost five pounds in 4 weeks.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

No Substitutions

I attended a special dinner for the speakers at a "Users Conference" for a technology company.  They invited all those giving presentations and some other VIP's to a nice restaurant the night before the event.

There was a preset menu with a choice of a fish, beef or chicken entree.  As the waiter described the selections he added "there will be no substitutions allowed".

I never want to be a pain in the butt to anyone in my "vegan quest", so I asked which meal might come with the most vegetables on the plate so I could eat around the meat.  The waiter looked confused, so I announced I was vegan.


He literally ran from the table to check with the chef.  Much like my experience at another conference two weeks earlier, the reaction caused laughter and conversation with my dining partners.

The waiter returned to tell me the chef would prepare a special entree for me.

When the food came, everyone at my table saw my meal and jokingly raised their hands and proclaimed "I'm a vegan too!!!".  WOW.... it looked great and tasted even better.  It was eight vegetables steamed together to make a delightful culinary experience.

No substitutions was morphed to became one heck of a great meal.

I am coming to find that vegan can be done without too much hassle.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Getting Creative

Sometimes you have to get creative when eating vegan.  We did not have a family plan for dinner last night and decided to eat leftovers.  There was plenty of pasta and Irish stew, but neither matched my vegan needs.

I took some spinach, raw almonds, soy cheese (is it really cheese? no, but it seems like cheese), avocado, Catalina dressing and cooked broccoli.  I stirred it all together with some nutritional yeast, and had a nice dinner.

I followed it with some vegan dark chocolate as dessert, and I have to admit I was satisfied.

My biggest worry when I began this adventure nearly three weeks ago was that I would be left feeling empty.  I did not trust that a plant based diet would fill me up.

I am learning to create meals that meet my body's need for nutrition and my desire for taste.  I have read a bunch of cookbooks and get inspiration from the vegans who consistently are crossing my path with suggestions and recipes.

Today is day 21 of my 50 day challenge (It was only meant to be 4o days vegan for Lent, but I began ten days early).  I am feeling GREAT and I have lost five pounds.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Corned Beef, Irish Stew, Irish Soda Bread - NOPE!

I grew up in a big Irish family.  My mother's parents were both born on the Emerald Isle and they brought the traditions of Ireland, complete with food and drink, to their large American family.  As the youngest of 26 grandchildren I have wonderful memories of St. Patrick's Day, which included Corned Beef, Stews, and Irish Soda Bread.  Eating the family favorite foods was a big part of any holiday.

This year I had to pass on my favorite comfort foods to keep to my vegan diet.  Turns out the Irish eat a lot of boiled meats and put butter and buttermilk in lots of things they cook.

While my wife and daughters ate the stew, I had a vegan vegetable wrap.  It did have avocado and spinach, so I kept the theme of "green" for St. Patty!  No Irish Soda Bread was even made this year.  Bummer.

Being vegan has been a lesson in discipline, but I wake up today and feel good about my being steadfast.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Vegans and Meat Lovers Living Side By Side In Austin

Part of participating in the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive festival in Austin, TX involves attending some of the late night parties that are so prevalent around town.  While with a group of friends, some of whom had not eaten dinner, we ended up at Frank..... a local restaurant that specializes in hot dogs.

I was pretty sure I would not be eating at this stop, but it turns out this carnivores dream of a restaurant also has a "Veggie Hot Dog" option.  To top it off, veggie chili.  The waitress assured me it was good and that she, too, was a vegan.

I loved that a vegan would work in a hot dog restaurant.... only in Austin!

Hey, I was hungry.... why not give it a try?

When my hot dog arrived I was concerned the kitchen had messed up, but the server assured me I was safe in the vegan zone.  It was really good.

Vegans and meat lovers living as one.  What a great world.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Bacon Slipped In

While at a party last night I was encouraged to try the dip.  It was chutney of nuts, raisins, and some other finely chopped ingredients.  I asked my wife and another person who had helped make the dip if it was in line with my vegan diet.... "Yep, you are good!". 

I took a bite... it was good.... and immediately they went "Whoa...... BACON!".

There was not much, and it was an honest mistake.  Thus.... I am not counting this tiny pig ingestion as any type of carnivore failure.

But it is a good reminder that meat and dairy find their way into many items.  To do a vegan diet one must be forever diligent, and not get too upset if something slips in. 

This mishap has educated me to the reality that it must be difficult to live with food allergies.  I don't go into shock if I eat meat or dairy, but those who have real reaction to peanuts and other items must constantly live with the worry of what has found its way into their foods.  I am already reading every label and asking questions at restaurants, etc.... 

The dip did taste very good and I did not taste any bacon (mostly chopped nuts and raisins), so I am going to assume my little scoop was bacon free.  I think all the bacon was congregating on the other side of the bowl.

Friday, March 11, 2011


Yesterday I was not prepared for the unexpected, and it caused me to go hungry for a few hours.

I had to teach a class for the SOS Leadership Institute at 11:30 AM, speak for Rise Austin at 2:00 PM, and deliver a keynote for FedEx at 6:00 PM.  There was little time in my schedule to eat lunch, and when things did not go as planned, I found myself not able to eat enough for most of the day.

My intention was to eat a Tofu Vermicelli Bowl at Lulu B's.  This is a great Vietnamese food trailer on South Lamar that is located near the SOS Leadership offices.  They open at 11:00 (or there abouts), and that would have given me time to grab lunch.  But they did not open until 11:20, and then told me that Tofu Bowl would take 20 minutes.  OUCH, I did not have the time to eat.

Fortunately there were some carrots in the refrigerator at SOS Leadership (Amber is so wonderful to share them with me!), and one of the students brought some snacks which included dried fruit.

I immediately went to the Rise event, and at 4:00 I headed over to the Austin Convention Center to pick up my South by Southwest (SXSW) badge.  Luckily, this Austin, TX, and SXSW brings in an eclectic group.... so the concession stand had vegan sandwiches.  It was nearly 5:00 PM when I was able to eat.  Just in time to fuel up before the FedEx event.

The FedEx party was amazing, and amongst all the great food they had a mountain of fresh fruit.

The day worked out just fine (it was a lot of fun), but I had failed to bring any snacks with me.  I have learned my lesson that I must always be prepared for eating enough nutritious food to keep me going if something goes awry with my meal plans.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I Said Vegan... Not Al Qaeda

While attending a large industry conference I had notified the meeting planner in advance of my vegan meal needs.  Upon arrival at check-in I was given a special blue card and told to give it to my waiter at each meal.

On the first day of the conference I was late getting to the lunch banquet (I was in the hallway networking... is anyone really surprised?).  By the time I found a place to sit the meals were already being served.  I waived down the waiter and showed him my blue placard.

He nodded and said, "Yes, Vegetarian!". 

Whoa.... I pointed out out... "No, Vegan".

The waiter recoiled in horror and backed away slowly.  "VEGAN?.... uhhh????, okay".

The whole table of convention goers burst into laughter.  One person added, "You did say Vegan, not Al Qaeda, right?"

We had a great conversation at our table that day.  Who knew that my dietary choices for the Lent season would be such a great ice breaker!

thom singer

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Begin Vegan

Today officially marks the beginning of Lent.  No turning back on my vegan adventure.

While the idea was 40 days vegan, I started early to ensure I could really make such a change.  I have already gone vegan for ten days.

I feel lighter, and the scale says I have lost three pounds.  I feel healthy, and have focused on getting the right nutrition.

I have even tested trying to eat while traveling, as I spent three days at a business conference.  Requesting special meals at the banquets, avoiding almost all finger foods at the happy hours, and eating piles of fruits and vegetables.

I have learned to cook new plant based foods, and have already tried new things I had not eaten before.

During Lent I will have several business and social functions that will require me to bring my own food, but I am looking forward to seeing how I do on this vegan diet from now until Easter.

This blog is where I will document my experiences.  Please check in from time to time and see how it is going.  Feel free to share your comments, ideas, recipes, etc....

thom singer

Monday, March 7, 2011

Traveling and The Vegan Diet

I have already made it 8 days, and Lent has not started.  My "test day" (to see if I could eat vegan) grew to two, then three, then four days.  Why stop... just keep this plant based diet going.  Thus the name of this blog should really be 50 Days Vegan.  Oh well.

It has not been difficult and the food has been tasty.  The only hard part has been being prepared to eat.

The tricky part is travel.  I had a trip to Palm Springs, where I was the keynote speaker at a large business conference, and the travel day to California left me a little hungry.  Upon arrival I had intended to find a Whole Foods before going to my hotel, but to my surprise there is no Whole Foods in Palm Springs (What? This is California!).

There is Trader Joe's, and they had pre-made vegan sandwiches, and other great choices.  I stocked up my hotel room with fresh fruit and other snacks, and the rest of the trip I never went hungry.

It was hard at the conference "Welcome Reception", as the waiters were passing great looking hors d'oeuvres that were basically all meat and cheese in combination.

An old friend who had moved to Portland several years ago was in attendance at the conference.  After my presentation he came up to say hello, and I ended up going to dinner with him and his boss.  We asked the concierge for a recommendation that would have good meals for meat lovers and vegan.  Without hesitation he sent us to a local restaurant, Sherman's Deli & Bakery.

Once in this culinary wonderland (the chef's case was full of the best looking cookies, cheesecakes, and other desserts) it was clear there was no hint of any vegan choices.  While we were waiting for the table I looked over the menu.  Nope... no options.  I asked the hostess about vegan choices and she replied, pointing to the menu, "All of our salads are fabulous... have a salad!".  There salads were ALL meat and cheese based:  a tuna salad, a chicken salad, a Cobb salad, etc...   If I had customized to fit my needs I would have had lettuce for dinner.

We decided to try another place down the street.

"Cork Tree - California Cuisine" looked promising.  Anything with "California Cuisine" in the name should be able to accommodate my vegan-ness.  While the menu showed no obvious selection, our fantastic waitress assured me the chef could take good care of my dinner.

HOME RUN!  A wonderful green salad followed by a customized vegetable and Navy Bean saute in a sauce I will dream about for weeks.  I think my meal was even better than the wonderful meats enjoyed by my dining companions.  The chef even came to the table to see how I enjoyed his creation.

I am sure Sherman's Deli is a great place,.... but I am happy we ended up a Cork Tree. 

thom singer

Thursday, March 3, 2011

"The Vegan Yacht" Makes Eating Vegan More Delicious!

My "Vegan Test Day" on Sunday went so well it has continued for five days.  At this point I think my eating vegan for Lent experiment has started early.  If so, (I could still stumble and eat some cheese), it will turn 40 Days Vegan into 50 Days Vegan. 

Today I ate at "The Vegan Yacht".  Austin, Texas is famous for it's food trailers, and you can find just about any cuisine.... including Vegan.  This find was recommended by someone (cannot recall who, or I would give them their well deserved praise), and I was curious to find another place to eat while on my quest.

"The Vegan Yacht" is located in an empty lot about three blocks east of IH-35 on 6th Street.  The property is now populated by about seven food trailers (buses, carts, Airstreams, etc..) that include a variety of cuisines including eggs, cheese-steakes, Mexican food, ice cream, etc.. 

This trailer of delightfully tasting and healthy vegan choices is run by a couple named Mike and Danielle.  They own and operate the establishment and have no other employees.  I shared with Mike my upcoming vegan commitment and he became my mentor of munchies, my teacher of tempeh, my professor of plant-food passion, and my victor of veggies.  He answered dozens of questions, and cheered me on in my vegan adventure.

I ordered the "Freeto Burrito".  I must admit, the idea of a fake meat and cheese burrito was not that appealing at first thought, but this was one of the best meals I have ever had eating from a food cart anywhere (Yes, the Reindeer Hot Dog at Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs in Denver is still the leader in my food trailer travels).  Delicious does not come close to describing this meal. 

I also had a glass of some fungus tea that Mike promised was micro-biotic and good for digestion.  Hey, why not!  I liked it.  Sort of tasted like beer mixed with 7-Up (but in a good way).

This meat-eater knows he can survive eating vegan as long as "The Vegan Yacht" exists!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Test Day

Yesterday was my "Test" day.  I ate vegan all day.  No meat, no dairy.

No problem.

For dinner I made paella... but used vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.  I cooked the shrimp and sausage separately (for my wife and kids).  It had lots of green beans and peas in it (no bell peppers as my wife has a pepper allergy).

It was great and there are left overs.

I might go vegan today too!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Starting Early

I find myself wanting to start early.

I am not sure I can commit to adding 10 days to the vegan plan, but I am now committed to making better choices.  The Pot Roast Sandwich and gellato ice cream last night seemed like the right choice, but today I feel it is a step in the wrong direction.

Lunch and dinner today?  Hmmmm, I will try to make the vegan choices.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Getting Nervous and Excited About Eating Vegan

My excitement level is growing.  I made the commitment to do this "Vegan Thing" for Lent, but now I am looking forward to it.  While my daughter was shopping for a book at Barnes & Noble I was in the cookbook section looking for ideas.  While checking out I saw a book called The Veganist, which I bought, and am not learning all the ins and outs of a plant based diet.

I have ten days until it begins and I am torn between wanting to start right now and making a pilgrimage to the Salt Lick to get one last "all-you-can-eat" BBQ.

I am nervous about trying to navigate my business trips and eating at conferences while maintaining the Vegan commitment.  But others do it, so I figure I can do it, too.

The family is going out to one of my favorite places for dinner.  I love the Pot Roast Sandwich at this restaurant and since Lent has not begun I figure I will eat my comfort food.  But there is a nagging desire to go with a big salad and some whole grain pasta.

My guess is I go for the Pot Roast!

**UPDATE-- yep, Pot Roast Sandwich, cheese on my salad, and gellato for dessert.  But even though Lent has not begun, I did feel guilty.  I think I will do fine once I start!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

13 Days Until I Go Vegan

I had to begin my quest to going vegan for Lent two weeks in advance.  If I am really going to do this, I need to begin preparing for the effort that will be involved.  I also need to start telling people.  As with any thing that takes discipline, the more people I get to support me the higher chance I will have for success.

My wife and I have discussed that the rest of the family will not be avoiding meat and dairy, and I have to set realistic expectations that I may not always be able to be truly vegan for the whole 40 days.  I need to eat and stay healthy, so if the only available food choice is vegetarian, I will be okay with that choice.

Thus, I guess I am not really going "Vegan", but rather "Vegetarian with a Vegan Focus".  Still sound difficult.

People all seem to have different ideas of what is a "Vegan".  I still plan to wear leather.  Someone once told me that broccoli has something akin to a nervous system.... sorry broccoli... you will be a major food source for me during Lent. 

Why would I do this?  I have been trying to eat healthier the last two years.  I choose less meat and dairy regularly.... but have never gone cold turkey.  I already use Rice Milk on cereal, so breakfast is no issue.  My favorite lunch spot in Austin is a Vegan Restaurant (Casa de Luz), so that is a bonus (more meals at "Casa").

I would like to lose 10 pounds.  Have you ever seen a fat vegan?  Not sure how my weight will react to this 40 days, but if I lose 10 lbs as a side effect, well that is cool.

I think that it will take discipline and sacrifice... and that is really what Lent is all about.

If you have any advice or great vegan recipes, please leave comments on the blog.  I look forward to this whole thing.

13 days and counting until I begin.  Wish me luck.

thom singer