Tag Archives: thoughts

Plane Food!

I just got to Europe, you guys! It will be an adventure in many ways, including in terms of what I eat. I packed a bunch of vegan snacks just in case I go hungry. I also requested a special meal for the long plane ride.


I had almost forgotten that I requested a special meal until it was plopped down in front of me well before they started distributing meals to everyone else. Once everyone else got their meals, two differences were obvious: the dessert (everyone else had what could best be described as Cool Whip with chocolate shavings on top) and the salad dressing:


How freaking cute is this little bottle of vinaigrette?! It was also pretty tasty. Now, well… I could have sworn that I took a photo of the main entree, but maybe I didn’t because I was a bit disappointed. It was white rice with steamed green beans, carrots, and peas with maybe a teaspoon of tomato sauce smeared on top of it. I was happy it was vegan, but then I overheard that the regular dinner choices were a chicken and potato dish or a vegetarian rice plate with lentils and tofu. Um, HELLO?! I wish they had offered me that choice.

Other than that, I had little to complain about. Everything was pretty fresh and I didn’t starve.

Looking forward to telling you more about the ups and downs of being vegan while on a controlled tour of Europe! –Melissa

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Food for Thought

Did you hear that a federal court has ruled that veganism may count as a religion? Sakile Chenzira was fired from her job at a hospital because she refused a flu shot due to eggs used in its production. She is suing the hospital for religious discrimination. This isn’t the first time this has happened, though the 2002 lawsuit was dismissed.

When I first saw the headline about veganism being counted as a religion, I chuckled. I’m happy with my lifestyle and I’m serious about the changes I’ve made, but I can’t help but feel that we vegans sometimes take ourselves a little too seriously. How intense is too intense, though? How does our motivation to be vegan impact our everyday decisions?


Taken from this article: “A person who practices veganism for moral reasons may be protected against religious discrimination, where a person who practices veganism for health or environmental reasons may not be protected.” (from Stand Up For Yourself Without Getting Fired by Donna Ballman)

I agree that the termination was wrong — and I say that as a vegan who got her flu shot without blinking an eye. Now, if I was a strict vegan and got fired for not getting a flu shot, I would definitely sue, even if I did work in a hospital where it’s important that employees do whatever they can to prevent illness. But I’m not vegan for religious reasons.

It can be challenging when people question why I’m vegan or when people are insensitive about it. We’ve all been there and had those conversations or awkward experiences. That said, I’m not as offended by comments on my veganism as I may be about my ethnicity or faith or something I can’t control like my height. Should I be more sensitive? On the other hand, wouldn’t it be a little hypocritical of me to take offense if someone offers me a steak when I used to eat steak whenever I could get it? What would it take — what situation can occur — that would make me stand my ground as a vegan?

Just some food for thought. Let me know what y0u think in the comments!

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Christmas Pasta

This holiday season hasn’t felt very holiday-ish. I definitely wasn’t feeling very festive until a couple of days ago. What happened? The weather got frigid, I walked into the State Street Marshall Field’s Macy’s and got overwhelmed by the decor and the crowds, was given a candy cane by a bartender, and then listened to some Christmas carolers over by Cloud Gate. Yay! Christmas! All that’s missing is snow!


Now, whether or not you celebrate or care about Christmas, I’m willing to bet that you’re gathering with family or friends or, at the very least, getting inundated with baked goods by co-workers. It’s been a challenge for the past couple of weeks. I’ve given in to the cupcakes, the cheesecakes, the coffee cakes, the scrambled eggs. Today is Christmas Eve and it won’t get any easier — but I’ve planned ahead in order to avoid falling into traps. After all, there’s no excuse for me to break my vegan diet if I have perfectly delicious vegan food to eat instead.

I’m going to a gathering tonight and there will be plenty of food, none of which is vegan. So I made some pasta which I am calling Christmas Pasta! Next time, I’ll add spinach or some other green veggie so that it actually looks Christmas-y.


It’s still in draft mode until I serve it tonight. I hope everyone at the party tries it and likes it! It’s penne in a marinara sauce with lots of garlic, sliced onion, and eggplant. I’m pretty excited about it. Everyone else can have their turkey or beef or whatever!

Happy celebrations, you guys! Stay safe and don’t eat cows. Santa said so. –Melissa

Don’t forget to enter our giveaway!

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Revisiting an Old Favorite: Soy Curl-dereta

For me, one of the joys of turning veganese is that I’ve become better in the kitchen. Cooking isn’t a chore or a crazy thing to do every once in awhile. It’s something that I wish I had time to do everyday. One of the most important lessons that has been learned out of cooking a lot more often is this: it’s okay to change things up, to experiment, to try new ingredients, and to get creative in the kitchen. Make cooking and eating work for you! Sure, it sounds simple, but I used to be one of those people who followed recipes faithfully and wondered if I was eating something the “right” way. For example, is it “right” to stick a whole piece of sushi in my mouth or is it OK to bite it? Sushi purists will tell you that there is definitely a right way to eat sushi, but I don’t quite feel good (or attractive) when trying to eat a whole piece of sushi. Drool and choking become potential side effects. But, I digress.

I recently made some soy curl-dereta (click for my original recipe):

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It’s only the 2nd time I’m making this, which is kind of crazy. I used to worry a lot about missing Filipino food! I can’t be missing it that much if it’s only the 2nd time I’ve made this. The main reason I wanted to talk about this is because I did things a little differently this time around.

  1. I didn’t follow a recipe.
  2. I didn’t have potatoes or bell pepper, so I was missing ingredients (and I forgot some ingredients). Therefore, one can make the argument that this dish is NOT caldereta, but they’re wrong.
  3. I didn’t use the store-bought Caldereta spice packet.
  4. The first time I made this, it was a HUGE production. It was also the first time I ever had soy curls. This time, it was second nature and I wasn’t terrified of the soy curls.

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You guys, I just have to say it: I’m so proud of myself! Look at me, being all casual chef let-me-get-this-stuff-cooked-so-I-can-eat-already! The one major difference is that I browned the soy curls with the garlic and onions and some Butler Chick Style Seasoning before adding the tomato sauce and veggies this time. Since I didn’t have a caldereta spice packet, I seasoned it with salt, pepper, and cumin. I debated whether or not to add nutritional yeast, but opted out. Thinking back, I totally should have done that: some people do add cheese to traditional caldereta.

You might notice that I was working with smaller soy curl bits from the bottom of the bag. It worked out really nicely. The carrots and peas ended up being the star with the soy curls being a nice accompaniment.

Cooking this got me really excited because I couldn’t help but wonder how my 3rd iteration of soy curl-dereta will turn out. I’ll be sure to let you guys know. –Melissa

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Celebrating Our One Year Anniversary With Easy Penne!

Some of my favorite recipes are the ones that are the result of desperation: there’s lots of little things leftover in the fridge, half a box of pasta, nothing new or exciting, just random ingredients and your brain!


I cooked some about a cup and a half of penne. Then, I heated up some olive oil, garlic, onions,  and about 2/3 cup of marinara that I had leftover. I added a bit of balsamic vinegar and then I seasoned it with crushed red pepper and Italian seasonings and topped it with some capers. It was easy and delicious and I was able to finish off some of the things I had sitting in my kitchen and fridge.

On another note, today is the one year anniversary of our first post on Turning Veganese! It came up really fast and it’s been a wonderful year of learning and bonding with friends and cooking and eating and getting healthy. We have an exciting giveaway coming up to celebrate this fantastic year! But first, we shall celebrate the US Thanksgiving holiday. We at Turning Veganese are grateful for YOU! Thank you for your support and for all the fun.

Love you guys! –Melissa

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Vegan Thoughts

I haven’t been experimenting much with vegan cooking these days, so I thought I would share a few random thoughts with you guys.

I’m really excited about having a 100% vegan Thanksgiving this year. I’ll be ordering my dinner and plan to make a delicious vegan dessert.

I get a real bad hankering for eggs about two or three times a month. Whereas my pizza cravings are more about taste and wanting something junky, my egg cravings seem physiological. I wake up on those days and I think, “I NEED SCRAMBLED EGGS TODAY OR I MIGHT DIE.” I don’t really get it, but I do give in to it and feel zero guilt because it makes me feel better physically. That’s weird, right?

I’m not comfortable calling myself vegan. That’s probably because I eat eggs and cheese sometimes. So, if it ever comes up, I most often will simply say, “I don’t eat meat.” That’s definitely a true statement.

I get really upset with vegetarian restaurants that aren’t vegan-friendly. I feel like they should be called creamy-and-cheesy restaurants.

We are approaching the one year anniversary of Turning Veganese! Can you believe it?? –Melissa

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Happy Labor Day from Turning Veganese!

It’s still a holiday in the USA for the next three hours or so (at least in Chicago). I ended up having a laid back, no frills day. In terms of food, I celebrated with some soy curl barbecue which is so easy and fast and delicious!

Speaking of Labor Day and barbecue, I am pretty pleased with myself for surviving summer without eating meat. I have definitely been tempted at times: the aroma that wafts over from backyard barbecues still makes my mouth water. But I made it you guys! I’ve been turning veganese for over nine months now and it’s been… well, it’s been really great, and this blog is a huge part of why going vegan has been fun, exciting, and painless.

Happy Labor Day, wherever you are! –Melissa

Did you hear about our giveaway? Read this post for all the details and thanks for visiting Turning Veganese. You are awesome!

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Vegan Weirdness

I ate a peanut butter and pickle sandwich for a snack a moment ago. Is that weird? Is being vegan weird?

Whether I like it or not, being vegan sometimes makes me feel different. It was a strong feeling in the first few months and has gradually faded, at least from within. That said, I had a couple experiences in the past week where I felt like a total weirdo for being vegan.

I went out for dinner and was really appreciative when my friends made sure we went to a place where I would have vegan options. It had been awhile since I had seen one of them and she learned only a day or two before our dinner that I was vegan. It was kind of a strange meal. I felt like I was pitied because I “couldn’t” eat the meat dishes (we went out for tapas), and I also felt like the meat dishes were purposefully moved as far away from me as possible on the table. And when I offered my vegan plates to share, I got this reaction of, “No no no, that’s your food. You can’t eat our stuff so we won’t eat yours. I hope your food is good, though!” I wasn’t offended and I knew the intention wasn’t malicious, but it made me feel really weird. So I drank more sangria to take the edge off.

Yesterday, I went rogue and had a slice of cake at work. I was also offered a slice of cheesy custard coffee cake. I declined, saying that I had already been bad by eating the cake and didn’t want to be further bad and eat cheese. Without getting into specifics, let me just say that I started ranting about how cheese is dairy and dairy isn’t good for you and dairy DOES hurt cows and I don’t want to argue about whether or not it’s cool to eat cheese. The response I got from my rant: “I wasn’t attacking you. I didn’t know about milking cows and hormones. I was asking a lot of questions because I really didn’t know and I want to understand. I’m sorry!” Whoa. When did I become a defensive vegan?! WEIRD!

Ahhhh! All that aside, I’m really happy that I’ve chosen to turn veganese. It’s brought a lot of joy and knowledge into my life. It’s a lifestyle that I am extremely proud of. If that makes me weird, then I am a total weirdo! –Melissa

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It’s been almost 7 months since I started Turning Veganese, both in terms of starting the blog and starting a vegan diet. I won’t pretend that I’m vegan 100% of the time, but I have come a long way since this post. I’m still amazed that I’ve stuck with it and that I have no desire to eat meat. I walk into the cafeteria or a restaurant, and I remember how bacon and burgers and fried chicken taste… but I don’t miss it. I also know that they won’t taste the same anymore and that it will probably mess up my digestion.

I’ve said this before, but the best thing about switching to a vegan diet is the discovery and rediscovery of foods. Christie posted just a few days ago about rambutan, and I was thrilled when I walked into my parents’ house and saw rambutan and lychee on the counter.

Alright, I’m gonna say it because it’s never not funny and it’s best to get it out of the way: it looks like I’m cupping hairy balls. Now that I’m done being immature, let me just say that they were yummy! I’m still hoping to eat some fresher fruits next month when I’m in Florida, but these were great for having been bought in Chicago. Go to Argyle for these if you’re in Chicagoland.

Another great thing that’s been a recent development is that people have started to treat me like a serious and respectable vegan. People who used to say, “Come on, it’s just an egg, no big deal, just eat it!” will now say, “Um, excuse me, did you just say you’re craving BACON?! DON’T DO IT!!!” Others who said, “I don’t get why or how you’re vegan” now say, “I understand why you decided to go vegan but I don’t know if I can do it… can you help me?” In general, people have gone from labeling me as “weird” to saying they’re proud of me and actually asking me for advice.

I’ve learned so much about nutrition and health and cooking. I’ll probably say that every time I do a health and emotional check-in. Before going vegan, eating was to satisfy hunger or a craving. Now, it’s about making sure I’m getting all the nutrients I need, knowing what goes into my food, and learning, learning, learning. It’s made me into a smarter and happier person. Yes, really.

Thank YOU for reading the blog, whether you’ve been a reader since the beginning or just stumbled upon us recently. My only regret is that I haven’t been as interactive with all of you as I wish I could be. That said, I’m thrilled to be a part of this community. I can’t thank Christie and Brent enough for all the hard work they put in to the blog. I LOVE YOU GUYS. (Yes, these sappy posts will recur on a regular basis. I hope that’s OK.)

Now, please excuse me while I do some research for my next vegan recipe… stay tuned!!! –Melissa

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Turning… Vegetarian?

Uh oh. I feel like a bit of a fraud. I’ve been eating a lot of cheese lately. It’s just so easy. And cheesy!

My first step in turning vegan was to quit dairy. This was not difficult at all, especially when I saw non-dairy on the label of my coffee creamer. I was never a big fan of milk or sour cream, I could live without cream cheese, and dropping butter wasn’t so hard. Since I was still eating meat, it was easy to avoid cheese options.

As I transitioned into dropping meat from my diet, I still found it easy. I started drinking my coffee with just a bit of sweetener, I frequented the salad bar at work, and the worst thing I ate was a french fry to satisfy my craving for something deep-fried. I did let myself have two non-vegan food items, guilt-free: a slice of pizza once a week, and a Snickers bar.

The blog has helped me be an honest vegan in that it has motivated me to cook, veganize my favorites, and try out new foods. But, sometimes, being a vegan really sucks. Don’t get me wrong: I feel great and I don’t miss meat. It can just be really frustrating when I go to a restaurant (even a vegetarian restaurant) where my only options are steamed broccoli or a plain baked potato. Even Red Robin is more vegan-friendly than some other “healthy” spots I have visited.

The kicker came this past weekend when I was out of town. I was lucky. My hosts graciously accommodated me by making sure there were tofu and veggies for me to eat. But when we went out… there’s nothing worse than craving pho or Chinese noodle soup and knowing that, even if I get it without meat, it won’t be vegan. It also sucks to go to a really expansive buffet and have no vegan options besides raw veggies, fruit, and olives. I ended up having some very delicious and cheesy tortellini instead. I could say I felt guilty, but I honestly felt like somewhat of a rebel. Also, I was fricken hungry.

I’ve always been casual about being vegan in that I will still eat white bread or any breads that contain eggs, I won’t give myself too much of a hard time about something that’s in a meat-based broth, and I’ll let myself have ice cream or frozen yogurt when I’m out and about and want a treat. My behavior seems to raise the eyebrows of both vegans and non-vegans: I’m either vegan or I’m not. I don’t think that’s entirely fair. I just don’t want to ever feel like I’m depriving myself. And I especially don’t want to starve myself or eat something gross when I’m in a tight spot and have little to no vegan options.

So, what’s the solution? I can label myself as a vegetarian instead of a vegan. But I don’t want to do that, either. I guess all I can say is that I’m still turning veganese. I’m not totally there yet, I’m trying to figure it out. Should I bring vegan snacks with me at all times? Should I assign someone to play the role of my food conscience and stop me from cheating? Do I need to step up and declare my vegan-ness every time I step into a restaurant? I don’t know. In the end, I may decide that I’ll never be 100% vegan, and that has to be OK. Anyone who isn’t OK with that is just not cool. Oh, dairy cheese… why can’t I quit you?!

What’s your one non-vegan food that you can’t seem to quit? Anything? I’d love it if you would confess your non-vegan cravings and share how you overcame them. –Melissa

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