The Journey to a Vegan Lifestyle

Guest post by Lloyd.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

If I were to try and imagine myself at 26 I would never in a million years have guessed I would have stopped eating meat. If my family were to go out for a meal it was always a safe bet that my order would be a big burger, mixed grill or a steak.

Although Simone is a vegetarian it didn’t really have any influence on my own diet to begin with due to the long distance. Even when we were together, if we went out to eat I would order the same meals. However, when it came to making stuff at home I was keen to try cooking up some vegetarian dishes. I was always happy to test new recipes and explore alternative options to meat so I guess it didn’t take much for me to jump feet first into the veggie lifestyle.

I can’t pinpoint an exact time where I made the decision to give up meat for good but the idea certainly developed from the time I watched a documentary film called Cowspiracy. I watched it near the beginning of 2015, but the film has gained a lot more coverage since one Mr. DiCaprio was involved as an executive producer for a new cut of the film later on that year.

It would be very easy to shrug or turn a blind eye to the message the film is putting across but the information really struck a chord with me and has definitely influenced my life choices since watching. The main point I took away from the film was just how drastically our obsession with meat has affected our planet. Now, I’m not posting about this to try and push my personal beliefs onto anyone, but the film is very thought provoking and I strongly recommend giving it a watch.

Luckily for me the change to animal free products and food was incredibly easy thanks to how accessible these were from local grocery stores or online back in the UK. Even though there were plenty of pre-prepared “sausages” and varieties of veggie burgers there is nothing more satisfying than creating a whole meal from scratch, plus – it tastes so much better!

As a starting point those sausages and burgers will be your saving grace. They’re a perfect jumping off point to ease yourself into a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle and are so simple to prepare with a plate of veg, couscous or mixed salad. But it won’t be long until you’re moulding your own burgers or “sausage meat” patties and creating all kinds of culinary delights like stir fries and buddha bowls!

It may all seem like a bit much to begin with, as it is such a huge step. If you were to conduct some research about veganism you may also find it overwhelming to find out just how many obscure ways animal products can be used in your day to day foods and other general ingredients. For example: a lot of companies use bone char during the refining process for their sugars and plenty of wines and beers are processed with isinglass (dried swim bladders from fish).

One of the major issues people seem to have with going vegan is that “there is so much you have to give up” but it needs to be viewed more as an opportunity to expand your repertoire of recipes and take more care with what you’re fueling your body with. So why not create something delicious safe in the knowledge that it’s completely cruelty-free! From personal experience I have cooked a lot more and with so much more variety since changing my eating habits and although there are some traditional dishes with a veggie twist, there are no feelings of nostalgia for those meat eating days.

I can remember at the very beginning my meals were always kept very simple whilst learning more about the lifestyle and finding what worked for me. Breakfasts would generally consist of a toasted bagel with vegan spread or porridge. But you can also mix it up with some smoothies, fruit salad or even some vegan pancakes!

With most other dishes I would cook up a decent sized batch so that there were at least 2 or 3 portions to use for future lunches and evening meals. Those meals would often be falafel, salads and some basic soups and curries.

Nowadays we are a lot more adventurous with our meals and will have a go at pretty much any recipe we find that sounds tasty. Lately we’ve been making a point of working our way through a handful of vegan recipe books we’ve picked up and will have to share our best finds in future posts.

Do you have a recipe or your own story you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you too!

Taking a bite of the Big Apple

foodmenusAs with any venture to a new destination, trying out a variety of restaurants and searching for those hidden gems can be a lot of fun and an experience all of its own.

Having spent two weeks in New York I’d like to think we got a pretty good idea of the “must try” spots within a few block’s radius of where we stayed. And although we did find plenty of delectable dishes, I know that we could go back again and again and still try new, unique places each and every trip.

I’ve compiled a list of spots that I would recommend to anyone who finds themselves nearby, enjoy!

P.S., Sorry for the lack and bad quality photos – Simone usually only remembered to take a photo after she had eaten and by that point it’s not really worth it! Oops.

This was our first “proper” meal out in New York. I had the chana masala sandwich whilst Simone opted for the bowl version of the same name. Having spent a full day on our feet this food was very well received and the hearty portion and explosion of flavours were a fitting reward for the 26,000 steps we’d taken that day!

 

 

We tried the location on 8th Avenue, the upstairs has a huge window with stools along it so you can enjoy your food whilst watching the bustling in the streets; ideal for people watching. We both had the hummus and falafel from the “just hummus” section of the menu, the hummus was lovely and creamy and the falafel was well done, crisp outside and nice and soft inside.

When becoming vegetarian, falafel quickly became a staple food for me. I can always find happiness in a fluffy pitta bread stuffed with warm falafel and a handful of crisp salad – nom.

Hummus and Pita co New York

 

When we stumbled across this spot on W 50th Street we were just looking for a quick bite on the way to check out Times Square before the New Year crowds started filing in. We were surprised it was so empty, until we came back outside and saw the barriers had been put up to block access toward the focal point of that evening!

The “create your own plate” provides a wide variety of “Proteins” and sides to create plenty of delicious combos.

The little Beet New York

Apologies, I literally only have a photo of the bag.

 

This restaurant kept cropping up near the top of a lot of “best pizza in New York” lists that we found, so as it was so close, we decided to give it a try. I can definitely speak for the both of us when I say we fully endorse the high ratings!

Getting a veggie pizza right is difficult at the best of times, the ingredients naturally make the base soggier and it can detract from the experience when you spend most of your time scooping toppings back onto your base.

This was not the case (so much) with this pizza. The base maintained a crispness and crunch but wasn’t hard. The sauce/tomato/toppings ratios were spot on so that nothing was taking over each bite and masking the other two. Granted, the price tag on the end of this was more than a lot of the other dishes on this list combined, but, when in Rome…

On the way to check out the Best of NYC cruise by Circle Line we stopped off at this little cafe to warm up before an afternoon on the water. We both had a hot chocolate and some pastry treats. It was a really cosy place and we could have easily spent an afternoon there if we weren’t so tied for time.

Processed with VSCO with p5 preset

 

 photo food2_zpsmymp46sk.jpg

This place is a good pit-stop to grab a snack as you’re walking the streets of the concrete jungle. Pick a base, protein and toppings from their salad bar style layout. More tasty falafel – you can’t go wrong!

You may have noticed in one of my previous posts, we visited this place a few times during our stay and it was always awesome! We kept coming back for the chilled out, pub vibe and that veggie burger with sweet potato fries!

 

I decided to check out Terri’s on a day when Simone was a bit run down and some comfort food was needed. As it’s a vegan friendly menu it’s one of our absolute top recommendations. It also helps that the food is incredibly moreish! Even if you are a die-hard carnivore, you will be pleasantly surprised at the alternatives on offer here. I went for the meatball sub and philly cheesesteak along with a chocolate milkshake. Plus, several milkshakes during the remainder of our stay.

Another amazing restaurant for Indian cuisine. There’s plenty of styles, mains and sides to choose from, trying them all is the perfect excuse to keep coming back! We both chose the feast option from the menu and I would recommend ordering the onion pakora strings as an added side.

Indikitch New York City

I’m almost embarrassed to say that we only discovered Bite because it was near the local “by Chloe.” restaurant. This place certainly deserved recognition on it’s own – be sure to try them both!

There were a wide range of soups, sandwiches, salads and general plates including some vegan and veggie options. On both occasions we tried the soup along with a sandwich each. The middle Eastern vegan ciabatta featured each time and can be ordered as part of the combo option on the menu.

We never saw this place and it wasn’t full – please don’t let the thought of a long wait put you off, though. The service is quick and friendly and the food is absolutely worth it. It’s vegan, they serve sweet potato fries, it’s all reasonably priced and they even do dog treats! The more I think about this place the more I want to go back!

Unfortunately, we only tried four of the mains, but I would be happy if they only had those to offer. The beetroot ketchup and chipotle aioli are both an amazing accompaniment so be sure to fill up a small pot with each of them when you pick up your napkins! I can’t imagine eating anything simpler or better than a bowl of fries and those two sauces.

Our dining experiences

It’s reassuring to know that although it’s a country that loves its grilled meats and fast food, there were a hell of a lot of vegetarian and vegan options to cater to us – as well as any other dietary requirements you can think of.

Everywhere we tried the atmosphere was always warm and welcoming. The staff were always polite, engaging and helpful which was a really pleasant surprise for us and was much appreciated.

As for the food itself we can only hope that similar establishments can really take off over here. The only thing we did notice was apart from Bite, everywhere used disposable cutlery and plates; which can seem like quite a waste. But the washable over disposable debate is a lengthy one and is not something I want to wade in on here!

On a personal note we’ll definitely be trying to replicate some of the dishes we tried and putting our own spin on them!

Let us know in the comments if you have any more vegan/vegetarian food recommendations!