I’ve been running into veganism around every corner lately.
Veganism is like vegetarianism except even more restrictive because not only can you not eat meat, but you can’t eat dairy products either. The benefits are supposed to be include better health, including not only prevention of disease but the reversal of many serious medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease and even cancer.
These benefits are explained in a documentary called “Forks Over Knives”, which was recommended by Somer, the excellent blogger who writes VedgedOut. She suffered from ulcerative colitis, an autoimmune condition that caused her considerable pain. The treatment resulted in substantial weight gain, severe acne and other health issues.
When she went on an entirely vegetable-based diet, however, not only did her symptoms go away, but her condition reversed itself. Now she’s a marathon runner and you can read her inspiring story here.
The film is available on Netflix and, while it’s not most professional-looking documentary I’ve ever seen, its message is powerful and effective. It documents a number of case studies in which people who faced serious, even fatal, health conditions literally had their lives saved by veganism.
Still, I struggle with the concept of being a vegan. I could probably live without meat if I had to — Sandi and I rarely eat anything other than chicken and ground turkey anyway — but it’s the dairy, especially cheese, that I would miss.
For example, I can’t imagine a life without pizza, which I could eat seven days per week (something I occasionally would do back when I was still single).
Still, the concept fascinates me, so much so that when we found ourselves Wicker Park — a hip, young neighborhood on Chicago’s North Side last week — we tried a vegan restaurant called Native Foods Cafe. It apparently is a small chain with a handful of stores in California, Chicago and a few other places.
I was not expecting the food to be as delicious as it was. The atmosphere was great, the people who worked there were gracious and seemed very happy, and the place was bustling.
When I returned home, I found a blog written by the amazing Becky at VegHotPot, who wrote a roundup of her best vegan recipes that she wrote about during vegan awareness month last month, all of which looked and sounded wonderful.
Then, a few days later, my older brother announced he was switching to a vegetable-based diet for health reasons. It’s like all the planets are aligning at the same time.
So while we’re not committing to 100% veganism, we’re going to try to incorporate more vegan dishes into our diet and see how it goes, starting with these two vegan soups.
Both were super easy to make and very delicious, so much so that I didn’t even mind having soup for dinner two nights in a row.
So I’ve ordered a bunch of vegan ingredients that I couldn’t find at my local groceries from an online store and will be preparing a number of vegan dishes in the coming weeks, including a pizza made with vegan mozzarella “cheese”. Obviously, I will let you know how they turn out.
In the meantime, here are recipes for meat-free smoky split pea soup (which is adapted from one I found on Vedged Out’s blog) and a really great vegan corn chowder. Enjoy!
Smoky Vegan Split Pea Soup
1 Red Onion, small dice
4 Carrots, peeled and small dice
3 Garlic Cloves, crushed
1 Russet Potato, peeled and medium dice
1 tsp Dried Thyme
1 tsp Dried Oregano
8 cups Vegetable Stock
1 TBS Liquid Smoke
1 lb Green Split Peas
2 Bay Leaves
1 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp Sea Salt
Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
Dash Cayenne Pepper
1. Put a soup pot over a medium heat. When hot, add EVOO. When smoking, add onion, potato and carrot and sautee until onions are translucent, about 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 second.
2. Add the remaining ingrediets and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the peas absorb all of the liquid, about 40 minutes. Remove bay leaves and serve.
The split peas continue to absorb moisture, making the soup even thicker the next day. If you prefer a smoother soup, you can use an immersion blender or let the soup cool and blend in a food processor or blender. This soup also can be made in a crock pot. Just let it cook on low until the moisture is absorbed, about 4 to 6 hours.
Chunky Vegan Corn Chowder
2 TBS EVOO
1 Onion, diced
1 Garlic Clove, crushed
2 cups Vegetable Stock
6 Red Potatoes, diced
1 cup Baby Carrots, chopped
2 15.25-oz cans Whole Kernel Corn
1-1/2 cups Soy Milk
1 TBS Garlic Powder
2 tsp Sea Salt
1/2 tsp Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
1/4 cup Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 cup Soy Milk
1. Place soup pot over a medium heat. When hot, add EVOO. When smoking, add onions, carrots and potatoes and cook until onions translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add all remaining ingredients except 1/2 cup soy milk and flour. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until potatoes and carrots are tender, about 20 minutes.
2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour and the remaining soy milk. Increase heat so soup returns to a boil, then whisk flour mixture into the soup and cook until soup is thickened, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
So now I’m going to be on the lookout for great vegan recipes. If you have any, can you please share them with me? I’ll do the same. Thanks!