Goal Setting and a Recipe!
I am not great with routine. This is undoubtedly due, at least in part, to the fact that I’m a free-lancer and I take work when and in whatever shape it comes. I’m an event coordinator, a yoga instructor, a tutor, and a writer, and I also have a habit of insinuating myself into (or creating) drama in my social and familial spheres, so my days look about as dissimilar as days can be. One day I might be waking up at 7am to get to a gig, and the next I might be sleeping in until noon because that gig lasted 16 hours. My idea of a morning routine is a glass of warm water with lemon, then coffee… (Okay, now you may speak to me, French Husband.)
The idea that I could become more creative, focused, and productive by establishing a morning routine is often floated (by me, and whatever self-improvement article I’ve landed upon) but never realized. Consequently, self-improver that I am, I have hunted down techniques that do work for me. Setting goals with deadlines seems to boost my focus.
My New Year’s resolutions jump-started my goal-setting this year. It worked so well for me last year, when I set one personal goal (be less manipulative) and one yoga goal (pincha mayurasana). The thing is, my incredibly smart and strong yoga teacher, Tanya Dawe, had my practice figured out by then and helped me get myself upside down by June. So, then what? As 2016 came to a close and I thought about what I had managed to accomplish last year, I realized that goal-setting and deadlines were the keys for me. I needed to keep my goals small and doable, because I tend to be a bit of a deer in headlights when I see a heap of work. I panic.
To be truly effective, I set monthly mini-goals, to ensure that I didn’t slow my progress. It has also helped me keep track of my goals, and learn to see them as building blocks toward the future I want for myself. So, I started a list. I even gave myself a freebie, since I had already signed up for it – I got my 200-hour yoga teaching certification in January! Next up: get my driver’s license, publish this blog, learn to meditate, learn Spanish, start a gratitude journal… and try eating vegan for a week.
A lot of people asked me why I had this goal, and it was a question that caught me off guard. I just thought it would be fun and I would learn new recipes, and maybe I wanted to see if I could. I hadn’t really worried about my motivation, it simply seemed like a good idea. I have quite a few vegetarian friends and a few with dairy allergies, and I love to cook. Surprisingly, my French Husband, who is very much a meat-and-potatoes guy (and who believes that, as Monsieur Brillat-Savarin put it, “a meal that ends without cheese is like a beautiful woman with only one eye”), was game. I set the goal for the month of April, and realized a few days into the month that it was going to be tough to manage. We had birthday dinners out at restaurants booked with friends, and I grew concerned that my personal goal was going to ruffle some feathers. So, I used another go-to accomplishment technique: I made myself accountable, and, in so doing, I made others accountable.
By telling my friends I was going to eating vegan for one week, I was setting myself up to have to follow through on my plan, and preparing them for their own role in my challenge. For my friend Chef Amy, who worked in a vegan kitchen for many years, it was a no-brainer. When she came over for dinner, she brought a vegan lemon loaf cake, which, if we’re lucky, she’ll post here one day. For my sister Lorie, who is pescatarian and a total foodie, it was also a no-brainer. She wolfed down the assortment of Ottolenghi salads I prepared for us. But the fun stuff came at the end of the week. The beginning was a little tougher…
Almost as soon as I woke up on Day One, I realized that eating vegan requires a bit more planning than I had done, and a lot more preparation. I poured over cookbooks and websites and saw that I would have to buy lots of vegetables to supplement my mason jars full of whole grains and dried beans, and that nuts were for much more than just sprinkling over a salad – I needed to buy them in bulk and soak them, often overnight, in order to get that creamy goodness that’s usually found in dairy products. That first morning, I had about an hour to think up, prepare, and eat whatever vegan breakfast I was going to make for us, and I had pretty limited options. There was an avocado on the counter, and half a tomato. I had a jalapeno and some odds and ends of a zucchini in the fridge. An omelet would have been the perfect solution, but of course eggs were off limits. I quickly googled breakfasts on the Oh She Glows website, and, patting myself on the back for having chickpea flour on hand, whipped up this farinata, with some minor adjustments (I changed up the veggies inside and made the avocado and tomato into a salsa with fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice). It was delicious, and did the same trick as an omelet without giving me the upset tummy that eggs first thing in the morning typically do.
Lunch was non-existent, since we woke up late and I was headed off to yoga class shortly thereafter, but on my way to pick up groceries I snacked on nuts, and while I waited for my mountain of groceries to be delivered I ate this applesauce, which I had defrosted a few days before. As I put away all of my vegetables, nuts, and fancy vegan products, I noticed half a head of cabbage kicking around in my veggie drawer that was just begging to be used. I remembered I had pinned more than one recipe for charbroiled cabbage and so I decided to get that going while I decided what I was really going to have for dinner. Turns out, this dish is so good, I ended up eating all of it, by myself, standing at my kitchen counter. (I ate a lot of cruciferous vegetables and beans this week, and this sort of set the stage for a week of “returning the favour” – French Husband loves to make a big show of his wind-release, announcing “I’m about to fart!” at least once a day.) In terms of fancy vegan products, you can buy vegan fish sauce, or you can “cheat”, or you can do what I did and try to mimic the sweet and sour umami with a bit of miso paste and a splash of soy sauce. Suggestions online I found also included shiitake broth, but that seemed like a bit too much work for a quick salad dressing, especially because I only needed a few tablespoons of the stuff!
I also ate a few bites of the most amazing egg salad I’ve ever tasted, from Crazy Sexy Kitchen, (recipe below), but what I really craved, what was going to get me through vegan week without complaint, was chocolate. Full disclosure: I made these Double Chocolate Crispy Frozen Dessert Bars for New Year’s Eve and they were still kicking around in my freezer because I added a BIT too much salt and wasn’t super into them. Turns out, four months in a freezer made them a little less salty… and a little less crunchy. Still yummy. I would recommend the recipe (and that you use whatever kind and amount of salt she suggests instead of winging it like I did).
The All Star Recipes this week came from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem, Deb Perlman’s Smitten Kitchen, Kris Carr and Chad Sarno’s Crazy Sexy Kitchen, and Angela Liddon’s Oh She Glows.
One of my go-to’s after my vegan week ended has been Crazy Sexy Kitchens “Curried Nada-Egg with Watercress Wraps”. It’s so good straight out of the bowl or piled on top of a salad, especially with the vinaigrette below. I adjusted the seasoning a little because I made my own curry powder and it is pretty potent. I also had an awkward portion of tofu because I bought it without checking the recipe, and maybe Canadian packaging is different… Anyway, my version of Kris Carr’s freaking delicious vegan egg salad is below, and if you want to try the original, go buy her book because there are tons of incredible recipes in there.
Curried Vegan Egg Salad
1 small package of tofu, anywhere between 200-250g
1 green onion, sliced thinly
1 tiny carrot, grated small
Generous 1/3 cup vegenaise
1 tsp Minimalist Baker’s curry powder, or 1½ tsp store-bought
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro (this is a key ingredient, but if you hate cilantro, try parsley or skip it)
3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
Salt and pepper to taste
Break the tofu apart with your hands, smooshing it between your fingers into pea-sized pieces with lots of crumbly loose bits. Add all other ingredients and stir. Tastes great on it’s own, in a pita with some greens (Kris Carr suggests watercress, and it was in season when I first made this, and was indeed delightful) and tomato, or, my fave, heaped on top of a classic green salad with whatever veggies you have on hand and an apple cider vinaigrette, like this one.
Umami Apple Cider Vinaigrette
1 small or ½ a large shallot, thinly sliced
¼ cup organic apple cider vinegar (with mother)
½ cup + 2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp old-fashioned (grainy) mustard
1 tsp honey
½ tsp kosher salt (if using table salt, half the amount)
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
Whisk all ingredients. Store in an airtight container in your fridge for 1 week. The door of the fridge tends to be the least cool, which is better for this dressing as it may harden. If it does, just stick the whole container in a bowl of hot water until it becomes liquid again.