Our Meatless for Lent Guest Post series continues with the fantastic Tasha of The Clean Eating Mama!! Tasha shares some tips and a great vegan recipe perfect for your next Meatless Friday meal. Take it away Tasha!
Hey lovely Chic Life readers!
My name is Tasha, aka The Clean Eating Mama. Diana contacted me a few days back asking me if I could write a guest post on her blog; I was so excited! I have been reading TheChicLife for a while now and absolutely love her, her blog, her healthy lifestyle, and of course Bailey. =) I can see why she has so many fans!
She wanted me to write about my experiences eating a vegan and vegetarian lifestyle, as she and many others have given up meat for Lent. She thought it would be a perfect time for me to share some experiences and tips – thanks for this opportunity, Diana!
First, a little about me: I am a mama and a wife, living in the beautiful Seattle area, and also a lover of Mother Earth and all that she provides for us. Being a hippy at heart, I appreciate and celebrate my existence on Earth each and everyday. I recycle, compost, garden and tread as lightly as I can. I admit there are plenty of actions I can improve on but I know that even thought the small steps I am taking right now has a huge impact on Her.
So this post is not about Going Green – but I wanted to share those thoughts with you because they directly impact why I eat the way I do.
I want to start off by saying I am not here to preach that everyone NEEDS to be vegan or vegetarian. While I am very passionate about the way I live, everyone is different and leads lives to fit their personalities and beliefs; and you should never feel guilty about that. This is why I am not a fan of PETA, but I will save that for another day.
Let me just say for the record that I am very new at being vegan, and while I am learning to perfect this way of living, I am not perfect. An occasional slip of cheese here or there has made its way in my mouth, but I made that decision and I don’t feel too guilty. But I am 100% vegetarian, and have been for a while now. It has been a long road of transitioning but I feel wonderful about my decision and know that I am not only doing my own body good, I am also doing Mother Earth good, too.
I first started my blog last summer, and just like most, I once started reading healthy living blogs in my free time. l was learning to live a healthy lifestyle and was amazed by the support of others in this HUGE blog-o-sphere. I had my son in October of 2008 and wanted to lead a healthy lifestyle for not only myself but for him.
I had always perceived food as the enemy. I was an over weight child, due to the lack of nutrition and poor food choices that I was around. This led to teasing in school, low self esteem and a horrible self image problem. As I got older and was able to make my own decisions, I lost that weight and felt great! However, I wanted to keep losing and I was never good enough for myself. Spiraling out of control, I resorted to binging ad purging, diet pills and a mindset that ALL food was the enemy, except if it was sugar free, low fat or fat free. I hardly ate fresh food yet for some reason I thought I was eating healthy. I was so low that I avoided all social gatherings that involved food and would not eat in front of other people, other than family.
What was my turning point? My son. I did not want him growing up in a house that had candy, junk food and soda. I wanted him to learn at an early age that eating healthy, nutritious food is important for our bodies and mind. So I started making small changes and educating myself.
I was a nutritionist at a local hospital here in Washington a few years back; long before I had Jordan. I learned so much while working with the Registered Dietitian, and seeing helpless adults infected with diseases and health problems made me realize that food has such a dramatic impact on our lives. I am a firm believer that our health is directly linked to what we eat. Over the past few years I have learned a vast amount of information, but believe me – you never stop learning and there is always something to research. I am a huge advocate on Childhood Obesity, too. As adults and parents, we need to be leading and teaching the youth, our ONLY hope for a good future, what is best for us as humans, our health and what is best for our environment.
When I first started my blog I was neither vegan nor vegetarian, but my eating had cleaned up and I was enjoying eating fresh produce and thought I would be a great asset to the blogging community, and clean eaters alike. I am sure most of you have heard the term Clean Eating – it has become very popular. Clean Eating – to me – simply means “To eat from the Earth”. That’s it. I eat food with ingredients that I know what they are, AND ones that are the most nutritious for my body. Sure, we all know what sugar and white flour are BUT nutritionally they are pretty crappy for our bodies. I enjoy finding alternatives to the current staples that are so popular in our Western Diet, and making healthy, nutritious YET delicious meals.
I started to become aware of what I was putting in my body, seeing how I reacted to certain foods and how they changed my mood. The results were AMAZING! Less bloat, no headaches, digestion was great and I had an overall sense of well being that I had never experienced before. I looked at life and eating in a completely different light.
The more I researched, the more passionate I became. Then I watched a movie that forever changed me – Food Inc. It was then that I decided I wanted to make a difference for not only myself, but for Mother Earth AND innocent animals. I was never ignorant of the fact that animals were being violently executed for our own enjoyment and food cravings, but I never really KNEW how bad it was. Or how bad it was on our environment – water, air, soil and so on. And it does go beyond meat; dairy and all animal bi-products are treated the same way.
I feel GREAT about eating food that was not murdered, or treated inhumanly. True, there are morally conscious farms that do an AMAZING job by treating animals with dignity and respect. And I have respect for those farmers and farms. But I simply see no need for meat in my life, or animal products.
Transitioning my diet has been a a very smooth trail to follow. I don’t believe drastically changing the way you eat over night is healthy, and it only leads to frustration. This is why I DO NOT believe in diets. Eating healthy is a life style change, a change for life. I have finally mastered my brain into realizing that I need to eat this way for life and there are no “cheat days”, guilty eating or feelings of failure. I have chocolate and non-dairy ice cream on a daily basis and I love it! I enjoy eating now and I enjoy seeing the positive outcome it has made not only on my physically, but mentally.
Right now is the best time to be a vegetarian or vegan. There is pretty much an “alternative” to every kind of ingredient imaginable – faux meats, cheeses, spreads, desserts, milk… And with organic and sustained farming methods on the rise, it has never been easier to eat healthy, meat and dairy included. Because my diet revolves around mostly plants, buying the freshest is very important to me. Who wants to eat a salad with no taste, biting into a juiceless tomato or finding out your apple is mealy? Not me.
I continue to learn each and every day. I am far from perfect but strive to be the best person I can. There is a wealth of information out there right at your fingertips. I challenge each and every one of you to do a little research about food and nutrition. If nothing else, it will bring awareness and help you understand a little about why we should strive to eat healthy.
I hope that you are able to see just how passionate I am about eating as healthy as possible. You have one body, feed it well!
I want to share some simple ways to start transitioning to eat less meat and animal products. Again, my goal is not to turn everyone into a vegan, but to bring awareness and show that it is quite simple to do. Even if it was simply one meal a week, that is a huge step! And these steps can be used to simply clean up your way of eating to a healthier one.
- Start slow. Like I just mentioned, make small adjustments. It can be as simple as buying organic apples rather than regular. Or ordering a veggie burger instead of a bacon cheeseburger.
- Get organized. You come home from work and your fridge is a mess, your pantry is out of sorts, your STARVING and all you want to do is grab the phone and order take out. Plan meals, prep ahead and make it easy on yourself! If you are starting slow with Tuesday nights dinner being vegetarian, plan it out. Have the ingredients in front of the fridge so it’s easy for you.
- Let’s cook! Visit a vegan/vegetarian website and print off the best looking meal you can find, then START COOKING! People just do not understand how simple vegetarian cooking is, nor do they realize how scrumptious it can taste!
- Educate yourself. Chances are if you have never looked into a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle, you probably have a lot of questions, concerns and comments. Google is your friend! Start typing away and let the links take you to your answers. I did my fair share of research before taking the vegan pledge – years and years I had dreamed of being vegan but never knew how to start. I needed answers to my questions. Knowledge is a powerful thing!
- Get veggie friends! I’m not saying to dump your old friends but make friends with someone that is a vegetarian or vegan. They will show you an entire world of eating and it will get you excited to try new things. Spend the evening together cooking a meal and enjoying each others company. Meetup.com is a great place to start. Search for groups that are focused on veggie diets and healthy living.
I wanted to share a recipe that is not only vegan but I guarantee the meat eater in your life will also love it – my husband really likes it and he is far from vegetarian!
Vegan Lentil Loaf
- Ketchup or homemade tomato topping (see below)
- 1 1/3 cup plain oatmeal
- 1/2 block firm tofu
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 cup chopped bell pepper
- 1 cup chopped mushrooms, button’s are fine
- 2 tablespoons tomato mixture or ketchup
- 3 tablespoons corn meal
- 1 cup cooked lentils
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons dried parsley
- 1 tablespoon dried red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning, or a combination of thyme, oregano and rosemary
- 1 tablespoon stone ground mustard
- salt and pepper to taste
Tomato Sauce Topping
- 1 6oz can Tomato Paste
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- pinch of salt
Cook lentils – I always have leftover lentils, but I love lentils so I don’t mind! Be sure to rinse and sort lentils as they could have stones or debris in them. Add 2 cups water to one cup of lentils in a pot and turn burner on high. Once boiling, turn heat to medium low and let simmer for 30 – 45 minutes. The lentils should still be whole yet mushy.
Make tomato topping while lentils are cooking. Add all ingredients to a bowl and mix with a spoon. Taste to see if it may need more salt.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Chop onion, bell pepper and mushrooms. In a large skillet add one tablespoon olive oil and put on medium heat, then add chopped vegetables and a pinch of salt. Stir and cook until onions are soft and transparent – about 5-8 minutes.
In a food processor, pulse oats for a few seconds until oats are small.
Drain tofu well and press between a towel or a few paper towels until all moister is gone. Place in a large mixing bowl and break up with a fork. You want to make sure they are in small crumbles.
In the same mixing bowl, add oats, lentils, vegetables, 2 tablespoons of tomato mixture and the rest of the ingredients. Mix until it is all combined – if it is too dry you can always add small amounts of water. You don’t want it too wet, but it should be able to stick together nicely.
A note about the spices – I know there are a lot of spices but I just took what I had in my cabinet and threw it in. You really do not need to add ALL of my suggested spices, but since there is no meat flavor you want to try to make is as flavorful as possible. I found that the poultry seasoning tasted great in it! Taste the mixture before you put it in the pan, making sure it tastes good and is seasoned to your liking.
Spray a loaf pan or small baking dish with non-stick spray. Spoon mixture in dish, then spread the rest of the tomato topping on top evenly. If you are using ketchup, use enough to cover the top evenly.
Cook for 20 minutes, then cover with foil and cook for another 10 minutes. Let cool, slice and serve.
This loaf makes a great meal when pared with a green salad or sautéed kale, and a baked sweet potato.
I have many more recipes that you can view here, and I seem to update my list more and more frequently now that I have been cooking and baking everything from scratch. I basically live in my kitchen!
I hope you all have enjoyed my (long) guest post and I hope it has inspired you to try going meatless more often. I love hearing feedback and answering questions so please do not hesitate to contact me at anytime!
And again, thank you so much Diana, for allowing me to open up to your readers! You are such an inspiration to so many people out there! xoxoxo
You are too kind! Thank you again Tasha for sharing your story, tips, and recipe with us!
Click here to view the other Meatless 4 Lent guest posts for more meatless meal ideas and tips!