Jen Popiolek
Jen Popiolek

Going from being an avid meat and dairy eater, consuming both on a daily basis, to eliminating them entirely from my diet to try a “vegan week”, wasn’t as hard as I thought it might be.  I learned quite a lot, from what it means to be a vegan and how it can have a positive effect on the environment, to discovering that there’s a wide variety of tasty foods and recipes available to vegans.

I think there’s still a stigma around veganism, but I feel it is definitely because a lot of people are uninformed about it, and tend to turn their nose up at “being vegan” and react with statements such as “What do you eat, lettuce?” There really is so much more to it, and I’m really glad to be able to share some of the things I’ve learned with you.

My week as a vegan

I still had the same breakfasts as I would usually throughout the week consisting of berries, nuts and yogurt, only swapping the natural yogurt, for a dairy free alternative. No real difference in taste at all! On the weekend – jam & vegan margarine on toast, something I rather enjoy, but hadn’t eaten for a long time.

Lunches – So I started off the week on salads of spinach, rocket, beetroot, walnuts, tomatoes, carrots, cucumber, peppers and pomegranate seeds. Not bad, but even better with some leftover vegan lasagne I’d made the night before. Then there was my vegetable soup (recipe below – yum!!), that I made mostly from leftover veg in the fridge, no biggy, but fulfilling and yummy!

Dinner – This is where it gets more interesting. Throughout my week I tried meals like; lentil lasagne, sweet potato burritos, lentil ragu, BBQ pasta burger, and even chocolate pudding!! Although my meal plan for the week was carb-heavy, this was purely coincidental; I have many more vegan recipes to hand that do not contain pasta or bread.

Each recipe I chose was not only very filling and refreshingly tasty, but also extremely easy to make. Here’s just a few of my favourites from this week that I highly recommend you give a try.

Lentil ragu

Lentil ragu

January 23, 2018

I was surprised with this meal as I couldn’t believe that such a simple recipe could be so tasty, and weirdly it seemed quite creamy as well. I think adding a bit of garlic to the sauce or serving with vegan garlic bread and grated vegan cheese on top would be superb!

  • Cook: 40 mins
  • Yields: Serves 4
Lentil ragu

Ingredients

3 tbsp olive oil

2 carrots

1 onion

250g home cooked lentils

350 ml passata

half a vegetable stock cube

1 red chilli (deseeded if your aren't too keen on heat)

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

300 g pasta

Directions

1Boil kettle

2Peel and dice carrots, and put them into a large pan with the oil. Cook on a medium heat whilst finely chopping the onion, and then add this to the pan and cook for 10 minutes or until the onion is browned.

3Add cooked lentils, passata and vegetable stock cube, with a tin of hot water (use the empty passata tin), also adding the vinegar and chilli. Simmer for 25 minutes, until the ragu is thickened.

4Cook the pasta and drain.

5When the lentil ragu is ready, take off the heat and mash with a potato masher. Return to the heat for a few minutes.

6Once the sauce is heated through, served with the drained pasta.

Follow my blog at jensfoodblog.com for updates on the best vegan recipes that I come across, and more.

 

00:00
Spicy Veggie Soup

Spicy Veggie Soup

  

January 23, 2018

I love making a decent soup, especially at this time of year! And it’s such a good option for prepping for a few days in advance.

  • Cook: 30 mins
  • Yields: Serves 4
Spicy Veggie Soup

Ingredients

Half a butternut squash, diced

2 medium sized sweet potatoes, diced

3 carrots, chopped

1 onion, diced

500 ml vegetable stock (add more hot water to cover veg if needed)

1 chilli, chopped

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp garlic granules

A pinch of chilli flakes

Directions

1In a large pan, fry off the butternut squash, potatoes, carrots onion and chilli for 7-8 minutes until tender.

2Add the rest of the ingredients, ensuring there is enough vegetable stock to cover the vegetables.

3Simmer for 20 – 25 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked through and soft. Alternatively you can put all the ingredients at this stage into a slow cooker and leave on high for 3-4 hours.

4Blitz in the pan using a hand-blender.

5Serve!

Follow my blog at jensfoodblog.com for updates on the best vegan recipes that I come across, and more.

00:00

My favourite meal of the week!!

choc pudding featured

Vegan Chocolate Pudding

  

January 23, 2018

I have never made anything quite like this before. I found the method of using the hot water to cover everything to make the sauce a little odd at first, but when I pulled the cake out of the oven – oh my. I was ready to convert to being vegan just for that! The pudding went down a treat amongst people I shared it with, and was polished off in no time. You know those puddings you get in little pots that come with the sauce on the top and you microwave them? It tasted like that, but better!!

  • Cook: 50 mins
  • Yields: Serves 6
choc pudding featured

Ingredients

For the cake

150 g plain flour

30 g vegan butter/margarine

170 g golden caster sugar

10 g baking powder

120 ml non-dairy milk (I used almond milk)

For the chocolate sauce

170 g brown sugar

30 g cocoa powder

420 ml boiling water

Directions

1Pre-heat the oven to 210°c (190°c fan oven)

2Mix all cake ingredients in a blender then spoon into an oven proof dish

3Combine the brown sugar and the cocoa powder for the sauce, and sprinkle on top of the cake mixture

4Cover the whole thing in the dish, with the hot water.

5Bake for 40 – 45 minutes

Follow my blog at jensfoodblog.com for updates on the best vegan recipes that I come across, and more.

00:00

Some great facts that I have learnt:

  • In 100g of soy beans, there is 73% more iron, 20% more protein, 63% more magnesium and 26% more calcium, when compared to beef.
  • Studies say that replacing animal protein with plant protein sources, can help to prevent heart disease.
  • Some Doctors recommend plant based diets for health, whereas a vegan is someone who uses no animal products whatsoever on a moral basis. So, a person that chooses a plant-based diet might wear leather shoes, whereas a vegan wouldn’t.
  • It is difficult to determine whether alcohol or even soft drinks are vegan friendly without having to search the unrecognisable ingredients online and a lot of alcohol is filtered through animal products. So check online to be safe!
  • The estimated daily greenhouse gas emissions of an average 2000 calorie vegan diet have been shown to be anywhere between ⅓ and ½ less than the equivalent meat inclusive diet. In layman’s terms, veganism is better for the environment.
  • Vegan chocolate pudding is amazing.

walnut salad

Things vegans get asked on a regular basis

One of my friend’s became vegan a short while ago, and I love to ask her about it, because it really was foreign to me. Read some of the things vegans get asked the most, along with some answers in our Vegan FAQ

Jen Popiolek
There’s nothing gracious about eating pizza,
but damn it tastes good!

One weekend a month, The Belgrave Music Hall in Leeds City Centre hosts a Food Feast, where Northern-based independent restaurants can take part in a mini street food pop-up, usually including 5 – 8 stalls providing various dishes priced anywhere from £4 – £8. For January they hosted a Vegetarian & Vegan Feast, which must have gone down a treat because by the time I went to try some vegan goodies at 3pm, almost everything had sold out! Luckily Dough Boys (Belgrave’s resident pizza kitchen) were still serving their gorgeous pizza slices, so I got to try the Nice Nice Chilli which consisted of; Vegan dough, roasted cauliflower, smashed kidney beans, pickled chilli, red onion and coriander; scrumptious! Clearly the Vegetarian & Vegan Feast did well as Belgrave are holding another one on 24th February. I will be sure to arrive early to this one 🙂

Lasting thoughts

After my week of a fully plant-based diet and learning more about the ethics of being a vegan, (although I don’t feel ready to fully convert), I am more conscious about where my food comes from, and what ingredients go into certain types of food. Throughout the week I actually didn’t crave or think that much about meat or fish. The things I did struggle with were chocolate and cheese, which I missed.

I aim to cut down on dairy and meat substantially in my diet, already cutting out milk and yogurt, and I am going to use more vegetable based recipes.

I am looking forward to enjoying a more varied diet and feel more confident in trying new things.  I would encourage everyone to give veganism a go, even if only for a short-while just to see if you can do it, and hope that you discover that you enjoy it as much as I did.


For more of my reviews and recipes, please visit my website and follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here