Thursday, December 2, 2010

Vegan Bake-Off

Let me first say that I promise this post will come full circle. If you know anything about me, you know that I tend to shoot off in one direction only to come back to point A like a boomerang. This post is one of those boomerang moments. Bear with me.

While Shannon and I have recently made the decision to return to being lacto-ovo vegetarians (we eat eggs and milk products but no meat), I have very rarely ventured into the world of vegan cooking.

Shannon was vegan a number of years ago, but returned to being lacto-ovo vegetarian about the time we began dating in 2009. As we progressed into our relationship, I was prepared to make the transition to being vegetarian. The older I've gotten, the less inclined I am to eat meat, and it didn't seem to be a difficult decision for me to make to turn to vegetarianism. It was especially easy to make the decision once I knew there were more meat substitutes than tofu. I might love tofu, but eating it every day would get tiresome. Luckily, there are a ton of other options, and I like pretty much every one.

Of course, the best laid plans often end up with snags. My decision to become vegetarian last year was thwarted by my diagnosis of ulcerative colitis in November. The ulcers in my colon are easily irritated by stress, irregular eating, and, most crushing of all, high intake of fibrous foods. Fresh fruits and veggies were really hard on me, and the thought of eating mostly all vegetables was daunting. So what happened? Shannon decided to start eating meat again so that we could save money on our grocery bill. Talk about finding someone special.

For the last year, we've been omnivores. It's been just find and dandy. I grew up an omnivore and, until I met Shannon, I had done very little exploring of vegetarianism. But I earlier this fall, when Shannon was diagnosed with high blood pressure and I was in a particularly difficult place with my weight loss, we began discussing the possibility of attempting vegetarianism again. My colitis is under control, and I've been doing a lot of research into recipes that allow me to cook most of the vegetables, thus making them much easier for my digestive system to handle. After talking and talking and talking some more, we decided to make the switch after our wedding reception November 6.

We are vegetarians for health reasons, not because we have a particular opposition to the eating of meat. In fact, we do our best not to inconvenience people, especially our families. On Thanksgiving? I ate a little turkey. I ate mostly vegetable side dishes, but I did have some meat-based protein. Did it hurt? Nope. In fact, I think it made my mom pretty happy. She didn't have to overcompensate, and we didn't have to request specialty items. (Next year, though, we might take a Tofurky just because I love it so.)

Considering that we're lacto-ovo, I haven't given much thought to vegan items. Some of the best recipes I have are vegan, and while I'm happy to use them as is, I sometimes need to substitute items back in. It's easy enough to add milk instead of soymilk or eggs instead of egg replacer. It's a little tougher, though, to figure out what to add when tofu is subbed in for a condiment. Thankfully, Shannon's the brain when it comes to such things.

Today, I was perusing Sarah Fit - to pull her Glee Cardio Workout Mix - and I saw a recipe for a delicious-looking Oatmeal Raisin Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie. It was linked to Made Just Right which is a vegan website. So, I started searching through the recipes and the content, and what did I find?

A Bake-Off. A holiday bake-off.

Did I ever mention that I can't resist a bake-off? Well, if not, I can't resist a bake-off! Of course, a vegan bake-off is slightly more challenging. This means it's ever that much more irresistible. I must compete!

This week is out. I don't have a pie recipe that I feel comfortable veganizing in such a short frame of time. However, next week is dessert bars. And the week after that is cookies. And the week after that is cakes! Do you know what I can do with three weeks worth of baking challenges?! Oh the possibilities.

If you're interested, head on over to Made Just Right. If you win (and there are two winners per category), you could win a $400 gift card to Whole Paycheck Foods. It's well worth it if you're like me and love Whole Paycheck Foods, but find the prices a little scary.

Good luck to you (and me)!

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